There are two types, climbing or dwarf, and they can either form round pods or flat and sometimes coloured, too. They are easy to grow and just one plant will produce many beans over a number of weeks
French beans are not hardy so make early sowings indoors in pots or cell trays.
Use a multi-purpose compost and sow four beans to a 9cm (31?2in)pot or one seed per cell if using the cell trays. Insert into the compost about 2.5cm (1in) deep.
Cover with more compost, water well and place in a propagator or on a warm windowsill. It takes 7-10 days for the seedlings to emerge.
If the seeds are in a propagator, remove as soon as you see the seedlings breaking through the surface. They will stretch and go leggy if left in the heat for too long.
Place the seedlings in a sunny windowsill or on a greenhouse bench to grow on.
Choose a sunny spot and prepare the ground by adding plenty of well-rotted garden compost or farmyard manure if you can get some.
A sprinkling of Growmore or chicken manure is ideal too, French beans like a rich soil.
By early to mid-May, the pots of beans can be placed in a sheltered part of the garden or in a cold frame to get used to cooler temperatures.
Protect plants from any late frosts with some fleece. By the end of May, beginning of June, plant out into the veg plot.
If they are the climbing beans, they will already be quite tall, spout your canes or poles in place first and then plant one or two plants next to each support.
Tie the stem to the pole loosely to encourage the bean to grow up that support. It is a good idea to use some sort of slug control at this early stage.
Space French beans about 15cm (6in) apart in the row and rows about 45cm (18in) apart. Water the plants well and keep well watered during dry spells.
Once the beans are about 8cm (3in) long, start harvesting; they are better if picked small.
Ideally pick over the crop every day to remove any beans that are the right size.
They will produce a lot of beans and fast and if left, the beans get old and the plants will not produce as much flower and will stop cropping.
Climbing French beans
- ‘Cobra‘: A heavy yielding climbing bean with round green pods about 18cm (7in)long. Lovely mauve flowers.
- ‘Goldfield‘: A wonderful yellow flat-podded type. The beans don’t have that stringy edge totem and at 25cm (10in) long are certainly great value.
Dwarf French beans
- ‘Delinel‘: A French ‘filet‘ type of bean producing masses of thin round pods.
- ‘Purple Teepee‘: Produces purple pods that turn green when cooked.