Growing French Beans
French beans are delicious and easy to grow. They make great finger food for children, and come in a range of attractive colours.
As well as the usual green, you can grow cream, yellow and purple French beans. One of most unusual are Borlotto beans, a classic Italian variety you will likely have never seen in the supermarket!
French beans are tender plants that will quickly perish in a frost so it is better to germinate them indoors or under glass until risks of frost have passed. May is normally an acceptable time to sow them directly outside.
For early crops sow late April one bean per pot 5cm deep and germinate on a sunny windowsill or greenhouse, they can be hardened off and transplanted out in late May.
For later crops plant them directly outside in late May. Fork in plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost before sowing. Some varieties like Purple Teepee can be planted as late as August as they only take 5 - 6 weeks until harvest in the warmer weather.
French beans need a warm, sunny spot in fertile, well-drained soil.
Beans grow differently depending on which varieties you have sown.
They only grow to round 45cm tall so are best grown together in small blocks where they can support each other. Allow 15cm between plants. They will need lots of water when they are flowering and growing seed pods. Adding a layer of mulch will help the soil to retain its moisture.
As the name suggests, these will need some form of support to grow up. The traditional method is using vertical bamboo canes spaced 50cm apart and secured at the top with another horizontal cane.
Just like dwarf varieties, they will need lots of water once the flowers appear
You can harvest French beans from mid-summer to early autumn. If picked regularly, dwarf French bean plants will crop for several weeks and climbing French beans for much longer.
Begin picking the pods when they’re 10cm (4in) long. They are ready when they snap easily and before the beans can be seen through the pod.
French beans store in the fridge for about a week before they start to lose their vigour. They freeze exceptionally well if they have been blanched beforehand... remember to squeeze as much air from the bag to avoid freezer burn!
Canadian Wonder - A heavy cropping dwarf variety which crops over a long period
Borlotto Lingua Di Fuoco - A superb climbing variety that is rarely seen on our plates!
Purple Teepee - A dwarf purple variety which turn green on cooking