Growing Beans Growing beans is easy. However beans for eating at the shelling stage, or to dry on the vine, need a long, frostfree growing period. So, to get an early start, it is best to germinate them indoors, in a greenhouse, conservatory or windowsill. They can be sown directly in the soil late spring, but I have too many mice who would thank me for an easy meal, and germination can be poor if the soil is damp or cold. Sow two beans to a pot to allow for one perhaps not germinating and then take out the weakest, nipping it off at soil level so that you don’t disturb the roots of the other. A normal 9cm pot (or equivalent recycled container) is fine for most varieties. ‘Gigantes’ are better in a larger pot. If it’s cold at night in the greenhouse, I might give them the luxury of a heated sand tray (or place them under a grow light). You need to cosset your beans in the early stages, as they need warmth to germinate.
When you are sure the garden soil has warmed up and the temperature at night will not drop too low, then plant them out. Ideally plant out when they have two adult leaves, but wait if the nights are too cold, even if they grow larger. I spread a thick layer of homemade compost onto the soil during the winter, following no-dig practice, and that’s all. It is often said that beans do not transplant well, but I find they transplant without a problem if the pot has been big enough from the start, so that the fibrous roots are not cramped, and if the soil in the pot is damp so that the root ball holds its shape as you turn it out. If the soil is cold they may sulk at first. Covering with fleece or cloches can be a good idea as they settle in.
Once transplanted there is nothing to do but watch them grow, flower, set beans and then pick and eat. Climbing beans obviously need some kind of support and the larger dwarf varieties also benefit from twiggy sticks to prevent the bean pods from flopping on the ground as they mature. Beans are not troubled much by pests or diseases. Slugs will eat the young plants, sometimes munching right through the stalk, so slug defences are necessary when first planted out.
Judging the moment to harvest takes a bit of experience. I start picking some beans at the demi-sec stage, just as the pods start to thin, to eat the beans fresh or for freezing. As the pods start to dry out, dwarf plants can be cut at the base and hung up to dry. Otherwise I tend to keep my eye on the vines, picking those pods that are looking dry and keeping them in baskets to cure. Only store the beans in air-tight jars when you are confident they are bone dry.
The ‘Tarbais’ bean originates from the region around the town of Tarbes in South West France and it carries an official designation,
so strictly speaking only beans grown in that region can be called ‘Tarbais’ beans.
First growth in the greenhouse. Two bean seeds in each pot and the weaker plant is later removed.
Climbing beans, starting to wind their way up the poles. Trailing squash plants and self-seeded rocket and red orach share the same patch.
‘Gigantes’ in flower
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