Climbing French and runner beans are among the most productive vegetable plants in the garden, but you do have to treat them well to get the best crops. They are easy to care for once planted out and established, but the key to success is to nourish the soil well before planting time.
When to start: Spring.
At their best: Summer.
Time to complete: 3 hours over a few months.
You will need: Bean seeds, coir pots, seed soil, garden stakes, string, well-rotted garden compost or manure.
Sow seeds in pots
French and runner beans are sensitive to frost, so sow them inside, one to each pot. Set the pots on a tray in a warm, sunny spot, and water the seedlings regularly; do not let them dry out. Plant them outdoors once all risk of frost has passed.
Prepare your trench
Dig out a trench to at least one spade’s depth and fill the base with a deep layer of compost or manure. This will give your beans the energy they need. Then, use long garden stakes to create a sturdy climbing frame to support them all summer.
Tie in stems
Plant one seedling at the base of each stake and tie the stem to it, until it takes hold by itself. You can also sow bean seeds directly into the soil in late spring, after the frosts. If you do, plant two seeds per stake in case one fails to grow. If both come up, weed out the weaker one.
Water and wait
Beans are thirsty, so you need to water them often, especially when they start flowering. If the plants are too dry, the blooms will drop off and you will lose the crop. Harvest the pods when they are young and tender, before you can see the beans swelling inside.
Tips: Blast off aphids
Sap-sucking aphids cause a lot of damage to plants, and they love tender bean tips. A good way to tackle them that doesn’t require chemicals is to blast them off with a jet of water. A hand mister is also useful during hot weather because a fine spray on the flowers can improve pollination.