Variously called dwarf, green or French beans, these are an easy and reliable summer crop for the home gardener, even more so if you are willing to plant in succession to ensure continued supply. They are a staple in our garden and kitchen. The first crop has been sown and we will continue to sow another double row every three weeks until the end of February.
We sow the bean seeds about 10cm apart, with side by side rows as close together as 20 to 25 cm. Cover with about 3cm of soil. They do not require staking or a frame to climb on. Beans are a reasonably hungry crop because they grow quickly with plenty of leafy growth. Being a legume, they do not require nitrogen but a mulch of compost feeds the soil and stops the roots from drying out. They may need watering in summer – excessive dryness will affect the crop quality and quantity. Pests and diseases are minor and rarely require attention. You can expect to start harvesting from about eight weeks onwards so a crop sown now will be ready for picking in early January.
The favoured varieties here are Top Crop and Chef’s Choice. We are not so keen on the butter beans but they are just as easy to grow. The attractive Borlotti Fire Tongue Beans have to be eaten very young or allowed to mature and used as dried beans. The stage in between is not so nice. There is some debate about whether green beans are safe to eat raw – we err on the conservative side and lightly blanch them.