French Beans

Family: Fabaceae

Countries: Americas, Central America, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, North America, Panama

French beans (known by their botanical name, Phaseolus vulgaris) are such lovely vegetables to grow.  These plants are both productive and decorative, with attractive flowers.  French beans are super plants that will truly enhance your garden; the beans they produce taste delicious, too!

Firstly, take care to select the type of French bean you want to grow.  There are two types of French beans: tall climbing French beans (often called ‘Pole Beans’) that grow up to 8ft (2.5m) tall (and taller!) and dwarf French beans (often called ‘Bush Beans’), which form much shorter plants that grow up to around 60cm (2ft) tall, depending on the cultivar and the plants’ growing conditions.

Seed merchants and nurseries stock a wide range of French bean cultivars that produce green, purple, yellow, and cream coloured bean pods.  French bean flowers tend to be white, pink, or purple in colour; the flowers are very pretty, they make a handsome feature in gardens and allotments throughout the summer months.

French beans are tender plants that need to be protected from frost and cold weather, as low temperatures kill these plants.  For the earliest harvest, sow French beans inside a frost-free glasshouse or polytunnel in April.  However, I find that it’s much easier to sow tall climbing French bean (Pole Bean) seeds outdoors during May and June.  If low night-time temperatures are forecast, protect your plants with fleece, enviromesh, or an old pair of net curtains.  Dwarf French beans (Bush Beans) are also sown in May and June, but these cultivars can also be sown in July.

Dwarf French beans (Bush Beans) can be grown in containers of peat-free compost, but tall climbing French beans (Pole Beans) are best sown directly in garden beds or borders.  The taller plants require a strong and sturdy support system.  After a couple of months of growth, the plants will be laden with beans and they’ll have formed heavy plants that will pull down any support frame that’s not firmly anchored in place.  Use tall stakes or bamboo poles to create a wigwam or support frame for your plants.  Don’t forget, that you’ll lose a proportion of the height of your canes or stakes when you push them into the soil, as you create your framework; so do bear this in mind when you’re selecting what height of supports to use.  I prefer to use the tallest stakes or canes I can find.

Don’t forget to protect your young seedlings from slugs and snails.

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