Sowing French Climbing Beans in July

To mix things up, I ordered seeds from Chiltern in the U.K. The seeds I'm soaking today to plant tonight are labeled French Bean, Climbing, Hunter.

An Internet search yielded a bean-growing page from British tv called, Love Home. There is an excellent resource of information on growing these English climbers at this link.

Some excerpts -
Originally from South America, French beans are a great choice for the kitchen garden. If you pick the pods when they're young and tender, you won't have the chore of slicing and stringing usually associated with runner beans. There are two types of French beans, dwarf varieties (the most common) and climbers. The compact bushes of dwarf varieties grow 30cm-45cm high. Climbers can reach 2m. Dwarf beans tend to crop over a relatively short period, so gardeners normally make successive sowings. Mature climbers produce pods all summer.

French beans can grow in most soils, providing they aren't too heavy or too acidic. Nevertheless, a rich soil incorporating plenty of well-rotted compost and organic material is important if you want to get the best out of this crop. The plot should be well dug, to at least a spade and a half's depth, because French beans have deep roots that need plenty of elbow room downstairs.

Hunter is a classic variety of climbing French bean...going for a dwarf French bean, try Annabel. This stringless variety is also well-suited to growing in pots. The Prince is another popular dwarf variety, which produces flat pods.

When dwarf French bean seedlings turn into young plants, earth up the lower stalks to give them more support. Earthing up simply means gently heaping soil around the base of the plant. It's a good idea to mulch dwarf and climbing varieties with organic material. As well as retaining moisture and keeping down weeds, the mulch will add some extra nutrients to the crop. If you like, you can add a layer of clean straw at the base of the plants for lower pods to rest on. Slugs can threaten seedlings and young plants. Protect seedlings with bottomless plastic water bottles. Surround older plants with grit or serrated rings cut from larger plastic bottles.

As your French bean seedlings mature into young plants, flowers will develop. This is the point at which to start watering on a regular basis, rather than only when the weather is dry. This will encourage more flowers and hence more pods to form.

French beans are ready for harvesting between 8 and 12 weeks after sowing. Keeping the crop well-watered at this time - and on into late summer - is vital. French beans suffer if they're allowed to become too thirsty.

Apart from slugs and aphids the most likely problem you'll encounter is halo blight. This bacterial condition emerges after cold, wet periods and produces brown spots surrounded by yellow halos on the plant's leaves.

Did you know that the beans inside French bean pods become haricot beans when they are dried? If you fancy brightening up the odd winter day with a warming casserole of home-grown haricot beans, try drying the last of your crop. Stop picking and wait until all flowering has ceased and the pods have turned golden brown. Leave the plants alone as long as the weather stays dry. When wet weather threatens, cut the plants at ground level and hang them somewhere dry and airy until the pods are truly brittle and beginning to split. Then shell the beans and dry them out further on a sheet of paper for a few more days. Store them in an airtight container. Don't forget to compost the old plants so that they will enrich your soil for next year's crop of home-grown veggies.

Love Home is loaded with do it yourself topics worth browsing.


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