Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris and Phaseolus coccineus) are legumes. Runner beans are perennial climbers (Scarlet Runner, Painted Lady,etc ) but will only grow as annuals in Newstead because of our frosts and cold winters, unless you are lucky or a good manager. Climbing beans are more widely grown (Blue Lake, Purple King, Epicure, etc) and can be stringless, flat or round. Dwarf or bush beans (Hawkesbury Wonder, Windsor Longpod, Gourmet Delight) – also known as French Beans – grow as shrubby forms and there are a huge array of these beans which are grown for the dried form, eg haricot, borlotti, lima, etc.
Autumn – Chop and shred plant residues back into the soil or compost. Beans are self pollinating and so easy to save seed from. If saving seeds, or harvesting for the dried bean, leave the healthiest and biggest pods to grow and dry off on the vine. Pods should brown off and seeds will rattle in them, but if wet weather is forecast, pick the whole plant, roots intact and hang upside down in a cool, airy, dry spot to complete curing.
Winter – Nothing happening.
Spring – Beans need a warm soil to germinate so so after the frosts have passed or early in a hothouse and transplant as seedlings when soil temperature is around 15 -20 degrees celcius. Too much water causes the seed to rot, so moisten the soil and leave until they germinate (soil should remain moist and not dry out) Plant in double rows (they like to be close to each other) about 10-15cm apart and 40-60cm between rows. Provide support structures for climbing and runner (these will grow higher than climbers) beans. If using tripods, sow plants around the base. Mulch; they are shallow rooted. Water well and foliar feed with wormjuice at flowering. Beans will be ready to pick in about 3 months. Apply potash or wood ash when flowering begins.
Summer – Sowing can continue through summer although beans are temperamental and don’t like hot winds nor direct heat and tend to drop flowers and not produce well in those conditions. if planting in summer try a partially shaded spot. Continue weeding and watering. Mulch well. A fortnightly or three weekly feed of wormjuice and/or seaweed is beneficial, especially at flowering time.
Generally – It’s important to pick beans when they are young and also to pick them regularly to encourage further production and avoid them being ‘stringy’. Put up your trellis or plant structures before or as you plant the seeds and seedlings. They will need to be sturdy and up to 2m high for climbing beans. Bush beans may only need coralling with stakes and twine around the outer edges of the crop. Milk or seaweed spray can help if mildew or moulds appear towards the end of the season. Don’t grow with onions, leeks or garlic.
Eating – Harvest carefully, use scissors to cut from the vine and leave a small stalk on the bean. Young beans can be eaten fresh in salads. Blanch, steam, stirfry.