How to grow... Beans
Rocket Growing Guides
Beans are fairly easy to grow, with few pests and problems to worry about. The most important thing is to grow them in a sunny spot that is sheltered from the wind, and keep them well watered (don’t let the soil dry out).
Beans will reward you with a long harvest during the summer and in to early autumn – the more you pick, the more they will keep producing.
- Growing Advice
- Common problems
- Chef's Corner
A sunny site
Beans are perfect for a sunny, well-drained spot. They prefer to grow in moist, fertile soil in a sheltered location away from strong winds. Avoid growing beans in very wet soils.
Beds or pots?
For climbing beans: Raised beds or a traditional veg plot is best. You can also grow them in large, deep containers. They will need something to climb up – it’s easiest to make a wigwam out of bamboo canes.
For dwarf varieties: Raised beds, traditional veg plots and pots and containers work well (1 to a small pot), as do grow bags (3 to 4 per grow bag). These dwarf varieties do not need support.
How far apart?
For climbing beans: 30cm apart around the base of a wigwam support is about right.
For dwarf beans: 20cm apart
Plant out in mid spring
If your plants arrive while it’s still a bit chilly, in April/early May, it’s worth planting them in pots and popping them in the greenhouse or on a windowsill until it warms up a bit.
Keep them well watered
Beans are thirsty plants and need plenty of water to help them flourish. When plants are young, water every day whilst they get established. During dry spells, water frequently and deeply, not allowing the soil to dry out.
Keep weeds down
Keep weeds down so that they have a better chance of growing up nice and strong!
When to harvest
Once the plants are flowering in summer, you’ll soon see the bean pods starting to form. Pick beans when they reach the right size, and remember that the more often you pick them, the more they will keep producing!
Drying beans to store
If you are growing beans to dry and store (e.g. borlotti beans) – leave pods on the plant until they start to change colour and dry out at the end of the season. Harvest them during a dry spell, (avoid leaving them on the plant for too long if it is wet and damp as they will soon start to rot) and leave them in a warm, dry place to fully dry out. You should be able to hear them rattling inside when you shake them. Once the beans are completely dry, you can pod them and store them in an airtight jar.
Slugs & Snails
You’ll quickly see the tell tale signs of nibbled leaves and slime trails if slugs and snails are eating your plants. Set beer traps, put a barrier of natural slug deterrent (broken egg shells, grit etc) around the base of plants, do a dusk slug patrol and keep the plot as free from slug-friendly hiding places as possible. Read more slug tactics
If leaves are not a healthy green, you can be sure that they are not getting enough water and nutrients from the soil. Water daily, preferably in the morning, and use a liquid feed fortnightly until the plants recover.
White/brown patches on leaves
If you see thin white or brown papery patches on leaves it is most likely to be a lack of water. Give plants a deep watering to replenish moisture levels in the soil, then water at least every other day to keep them healthy.
Once picked, beans will keep in the fridge for a few days, although they taste better if used fresh.
If you’d like to dry the beans out, wait until they have dried out on the plants. Then, pick them and leave them to dry out in a nice dry place before you shell them. Keep the beans in an airtight container. (Don’t forget to soak them again before you cook them!)
- Beans are delicious simply steamed and served with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of sea salt.
- Try a runner bean chutney – it is seriously good!
- Serve French Beans in a tomato & garlic sauce with crunchy breadcrumbs on top.