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. 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.
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. It is important to plant in pairs, so that the weaker of the two resulting plants can be removed. Ensure 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.