Best of the beans: how to grow beans in your garden - Telegraph: "what's"
There are four secrets to success with beans.
- First, choose the best varieties. As with most vegetables, growing the most delicious varieties takes no more effort than the plainest, so take a moment to pick the most flavoursome.
- Secondly, start them off well. Beans like to throw down long roots, so rather than sow them in seed trays or regular modules, use root trainers. These long modules allow each seed to create a good root system while the first few leaves develop – this gives the plant the perfect engine room below and above ground to grow quickly and productively when planted out.
Root trainers are widely available, but we find cardboard loo-roll inners make fine substitutes. They work perfectly for peas too. You can sow direct into the soil, but I find seedlings more resilient to pests and drought.
- Thirdly, sow with consumption in mind. Success sowing is the key to a steady stream of delicious beans rather than a long weekend of chutney making. Sow them in small batches, three weeks apart, and as one batch begins to tire, the next will be ready to replace it.
For our family of three, I like a four metre double row of broad beans ready at a time, plus perhaps 20 plants each of runner beans and French beans. Borlottis are a little slower in their productivity and I generally only do an early sowing now and one in early June to give a staggered harvest. For spacing, whatever the variety of bean, follow the instructions on the packet and you can’t go wrong.
- Lastly, harvest your beans when they are at their best: for all but borlottis, this is small, sweet and tender. Picked at this stage, they produce more the more you harvest them, but don’t kid yourself that these are bean-making machines designed for your dining pleasure; the secret behind their productivity is sex. The pods you snap from the plant hold their next generation – the more of those seeds that mature and are capable of growing into new plants, the more quickly the plant slows down production, having served its function of procreation. So, picking the pods early not only ensures the sweetest harvest, it also gives the plant an incentive to keep producing. Don’t worry about yield – the beans may be smaller, but the finer flavour and the extra productivity more than makes up for the weight of each harvest.
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