Our tricks to having [nice] beans over a l-o-n-g season.
By the end of winter we look forward to veggies we have not had for some months – tomatoes, zucchinis etc – and fresh beans! For us, beans are the first available of the summer crops while we wait [impatiently] for the rest.
Our bean supplying strategy has evolved over the years and starts with sowing a number of varieties in spring.
First to go in are dwarf beans ‘Prince’ into a bed with compost and covered with a plastic tunnel to warm it up; in a protected, sunny spot. These will crop first. They taste OK [if not terrific] and grow well in cooler conditions when most other beans struggle, so these ‘Prince’ beans are useful to fill that gap.
Maybe it’s time to put the first lot in now as we seem to have a warm, early Spring this year.
Then, next to go in when the ground is warm [maybe 3-4 weeks later, in October?], are our other favorite dwarf beans. 2 varieties:
‘Purple Tee Pee’. These taste nice and its easy to find the beans as they are different colors to the leaves and stems – neat. They crop prolifically and quite quickly.
Also, in go dwarf butter beans which gives a crop of delicious yellow beans – when I look after them! The yellow beans are easy to find too, which I appreciate. [No idea of the variety as I replant year after year and who knows which it was originally!]
At the same time I plant climbing ‘Emu’ beans on a trellis behind the dwarf beans. These are a staple for us. They take longer to start to crop than the dwarf beans so are flowering and ‘beaning’ prolifically as the dwarf beans finish – great timing.
- taste good,
- are string-less,
- have a prolific crop [if looked after],
- and – even better – they continue to flower and ‘bean’ even when the older beans are drying on the vine – a great benefit as I seem to miss so many until they are too big to be nice to eat. With other beans I find the crop of edible beans decreases the more old beans I miss on the vine. Then the vine dies. Emu beans keep on keeping on producing new tiny beans too.
We have 2 varieties of runner beans which are perennial so they re-grow from the roots each year when the ground warms up.
- ‘Sunset runner’ has lovely pale orange flowers so its on the front fence.
- ‘Painted Lady’ is a 2-toned red/white flower – also very pretty and where we can see it on the side fence.
We keep 1 plant of each even though we aren’t great runner bean fans for eating – they have lovely flowers. To us, there are sweeter, juicier, nicer options for eating.
Snake beans! ‘Red Noodle’ is a nice one with purple-ish beans so they are more visible than green ones. Taste fine too. They climb strongly and are of tropical origin so love hot weather when other beans are not so happy [when its too hot ordinary beans don’t set seed even if they flower]. Snake beans really come into their own then.
So, we start our bean harvest with
- ‘Prince‘ dwarf beans in spring.
- Then the dwarf ‘Purple Tee Pee‘ and yellow butter beans are ready [so ‘Prince’ beans are left to form seed beans for next season].
- Then the ‘Emu‘ beans are flourishing and give abundant crops [so the dwarf beans are left to produce seed beans for next season].
- Then the Snake beans arrive and add diversity to our summer/autumn bean collection.
- Runner beans are available for those occasions when other beans are in low supply.
- Then we sow a late crop of ‘Prince‘ beans in March which [hopefully] feed us into winter [with a plastic tunnel cover added over them when the weather turned colder]
This sequence gives us nice beans from spring through until winter. Pretty good.
How we grow bean seedlings
First, I put the seeds into jars of water on the kitchen bench to swell up and sprout in the warmth of the kitchen. I rinse and empty off the water each day until I see tiny roots sprouting from the seeds. [I can also see if the seed is actually viable and will grow at all]
As soon as I see the seeds sprouting, I plant them into prepared garden beds [with compost and ‘Fodda’ nutrients added – just a little. Beans will make lots of leaves and few pods with too much rich ground].
We cover bean/pea plots with bird net or the blackbirds scratch the lot out searching for worms in the soil. If its really cold and windy we put plastic covers on before the bird netting [which holds the covers on even in high winds].
Corner posts, string or wire mesh make great trellises for climbing beans and peas.
Sometimes we surround a few seeds with cut-down plastic bottles as tiny protective hot-houses.
We put out snail bait [I use ‘Quash’ as it is iron based and doesn’t affect other soil life] as new legume seedlings are favorites of slugs and snails. A ‘night-patrol’ to collect any visible slugs and snails also helps reduce numbers. It’s amazing how many small seedlings disappear when 1 large snail wakes up from its winter sleep.
Then add labels [with dates] to help me remember what I planted where or I’m likely to put other things in the bed too, creating confusion and poor returns – it has happened over the years.
When crops are ‘beaning’ heaps, we pick beans every day or 2 so we collect them at their tenderest and tastiest – which are young ones. We pick beans when they are small – smaller than most people think are worth picking. Yet these are the ones which are most succulent, tender and tasty.
So when we grow our own beans we can have the BEST quality rather than the crop which commercial growers get the best financial return on.
Anyway, I hope this has given some ideas for growing a l-o-n-g supply of beans from late spring through into winter. Pretty good when there is just a short time to wait for veg we like.
What are your favorites? How do you get a long bean season?
May you and your garden flourish!