Sowing climbing and dwarf beansPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Plant Care
Now is the time to think about sowing beans, both climbing and dwarf varieties. Runner beans are easy to grow and no veg patch should be without a few plants but when it comes to harvesting, be sure to pick the pods when they are small and tender.
Watch out for frost
For an early crop of tasty beans, aim to have the young plants growing in open ground as soon as possible after the risk of frost has passed – a combination of canny weather-watching and luck. Bean plants are frost tender, as I found to my cost a few years ago when I forgot to bring a tray of beautiful young plants into my greenhouse one evening, after moving them out in the morning to harden off. A drop in temperature that night sealed their fate and the scene that greeted me next day was grim: pots of drooping plants which had no chance of recovering. The only solution was to re-sow; precious days lost. Once planted, cover your plants with fleece if frost threatens.
Reading this, you’ll have gathered that I like to sow beans ‘under glass’ and plant out a few weeks later – rather than sowing the seeds directly into open ground. Both methods work equally well and beans have big seeds which makes them easy to handle when sowing. My method is to fill a 15cm pot with compost, then make a dozen or so holes and drop a seed into each before covering and giving the pot a good water. Be careful where you then put the pots as mice love to dig the soil and eat the seeds!
Germination of beans is generally good, the tiny plants thrusting their heads out of the compost a week or so after sowing, leaves already forming and ready to unfurl, each plant then developing at speed if kept well-watered and in a reasonably warm spot.
If you sow your beans in pots, acclimatise the young plants (‘hardening off’) before planting them outside. When you are sure the risk of frost has passed, water the plants well, then make a hole with a trowel and pop a plant in. When planting climbing varieties, erect the supporting framework first or you’ll end up trampling on your precious plants.
My favourite varieties
There is a wide range of climbing and dwarf bean seeds. I always grow Barlotti beans, ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ – the name (Tongue of Flame) giving a clue as to the appearance of the mature pods, harvested for the speckled beans which then can be stored once dried – the perfect addition to a winter casserole.
French beans, both climbing and dwarf, come in a variety of colours – green, pale yellow, flecked and deep purple – all equally delicious. I have enjoyed good crops of tender pods from ‘Blauhilde’, the decorative purple pods of this climbing variety turning green when cooked. For a prolific cropper, try ‘Blue Lake’. French climbing beans plants also do well where space is limited, the plants being less dominant than ‘runners’.
On a family holiday in the USA many years ago, I discovered that runner beans are generally grown there as flowering, rather than edible plants because of the brightly-coloured flowers. If you are thinking of growing a few ‘runners’, maybe trained up a cane wigwam, try ‘Enorma’ (the name gives a clue to the size of the pods) or ‘White Lady’.