French beans are delicious. The tasty beans are picked while still small and when cooked that size they taste out of this world. I don’t think British gardeners give this vegetable the praise it deserves, it still seems that runner beans are more popular with gardeners, I don’t know why!
French beans can be grown as a bush, which grows between twelve to twenty inches tall depending upon the variety you decide to grow. There are also climbing varieties that grow in a similar way to runner beans, these varieties grow up to seven foot tall.
Stages of Growing
French beans like most vegetables enjoy growing in a rich fertile soil that is well draining. However french beans will grow well in almost any soil or location, they tend to adapt to any soil type other than really heavy soil.
The soil is best dug in the spring digging in well rotted compost or leaf mould. It is essential that you don’t grow crops in the same position twice as french beans in particular are prone to disease if grown in the same place year after year.
Sowing and Planting
Seeds can be sown outdoors in May and June. The seeds are quite large so extremely easy to plant. Seeds should be sown at a depth of two inches, four to five inches apart in rows that are fourteen inches apart.
You may also decide to sow an early crop in April under cloches. Sow in the same way as you do with the main sown beans just a little earlier and with some protection from colder weathers.
The beans can also be sown under glass with the young plants transplanted after the last frost.
Looking After the Plants
If a late frost is expected you must protect your french beans from this cold weather as just a touch of frost can kill rows of beans instantly.
While the plants are still small slugs may be a problem and protection may be needed. Some support will be required to, for bush varieties you can use pea sticks and string, for the larger climbing varieties you should use a network of stakes and canes.
Keep the plants well watered throughout the season as water is essential to make the flowers set and the beans to grow.
You can first start harvesting french beans while they are still small, 4-5 inches long are perfect. Allowing french beans to grow much larger than six inches long can make them stringy and tasteless. In my garden I grow vegetables, particularly french beans, for taste, not size.
Haricot beans can also be produced by leaving some beans on the plants to mature. No special treatment is required, just leave the beans upon the plant until they mature and the pods turn golden brown.