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How To Grow Beans

Whether you're sowing bean seeds or planting out plugs, growing beans is an easy way to supply yourself with fresh, tasty vegetables to be picked through the summer. Beans are also high in protein, ideal for smaller spaces and containers, and they have a delicious taste which even kids love!

When and Where to Plant
A sunny but sheltered spot is perfect for beans. Seeds should be planted from April onwards indoors and late May if planted outdoors, and plug plants from mid April to mid May depending on weather conditions. A traditional method of preparing the location for beans is to dig out a 'bean trench' during the winter. This is then filled with compost and covered over with soil in the spring. Beans are then planted along the trench. Beans are also ideal for container planting - choose a pot with a diameter of at least 40 cm. Mix a loam based compost with loam free compost in the container, and don't forget to ensure that there are drainage holes. We also supply autumn planting broad beans for planting out in September.

How to Plant
If you are planting climbing French or runner beans, then you need to begin by creating a support. Depending on the space available, you can either create two rows of canes leaning into each other with a horizontal cane tied in where the rows cross to secure them together, or a circular tent-shape of canes tied together at the top with string. Canes with their attendant plants should be spaced around 15 to 20 cm apart. Prepare the soil by digging it over and turning in organic material - leaf mould or manure - increasing the fertility and moisture level of the soil.

The easiest way to grow beans from seed, in particular runner beans, is to sow these indoors at the end of April. A seed planted 5 cm down in an 8 cm deep pot of compost should germinate over three weeks on a well lit windowsill. Harden the seedling off for a few days in an intermediate environment such as a porch or cold frame before planting out. Dwarf, runner and climbing beans can also be grown by planting the seed straight into the soil next to the supporting cane. Plant the seeds 2.5 cm deep (for dwarf French beans) and 5 cm deep for climbing and runner beans - plant in pairs so that the weaker of the two resulting plants can be removed. Make sure that plants grow up twining around the supporting canes.

Plug plants should be planted out at the base of their supports with plenty of mulch around the plants. Once your plants have arrived, carefully unpack them, removing the tray from the box. Place the tray indoors (or outdoors if there is no danger of frost) in a light, draught-free area and check that the compost is moist, watering with a fine mist if necessary. Alternatively, place the tray in a shallow container of water to allow the roots to soak up from underneath. Allow the plants to rest in the tray for 24 hours before planting out in their prepared places.

Pick beans regularly - pick more and the plants will produce more! The harvest season is long, with the pods appearing from July onwards and then right through to the first autumn frosts. If you are growing beans under glass then the harvest season will continue even longer.

Through the Year
Beans require a lot of watering - don't let the plants dry out. Set a regular habit of watering the plants - twice a week or even every day during any particularly hot spells. Help moisture retention with a spread of mulch around the plants.

Handy Tips
Once the plants have stopped producing new pods, compost them - this will avoid the possibility of attracting pests such as bean beetles.

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