Sowing: The advantage of beans is that the seeds are reasonably large and easy to handle. Many people plant these crops outside but I find that to ensure good rates of germination, sowing onto 5" pots undercover and planting out once stronger. I normally sow the seeds at the start of April and a second batch at the start of May.
Potting On: Depending on the weather once the plants are strong and the roots have filled the pot I would either plant out or pot into 6/7" pots. This should give you the couple of weeks needed for the temperature outside to warm up and the risk of frost to diminish. The roots will fill the pots relatively quickly so don't be afraid to pot the plants on to 10" pots if the weather is still not right.
Planting Out: The plants of dwarf french beans are fairly sturdy and only require a single cane per plant put vertically into the soil. For climbing french beans an A frame or similar wigwam structure should be constructed to allow plants to grow upwards. If plants are dwindling check your watering regime or feed with high N2 feed.
Harvesting: When harvesting a quick tug on the bean should release it from the plant with a small section of stem. If the bean isn't released just snip at the stem joint with some sharp secateurs.
Pests and Diseases: The number one pest for the french beans are pigeons, these annoying vermin will rip the beans in half leaving an open bean to the elements allowing in other pests and diseases. Netting is the only way to completely protect your crop. The other problems for french beans include:
- Slugs and Snails - Pellets
- Aphids - Insect spray
- Bean weevil - Nemesis predator pack.
Varieties: The following are the varieties i have used with notes on the performance of each one.
- Hunter (Climber) - Excellent fresh, store reasonably well and taste good.
- The Prince (Dwarf) - Best for showing, good uniform beans, straight and plump also reasonable in the kitchen.
- Cobra (Climber) - Excellent for the kitchen, easy to grow and widely available.