Site Preparation: In the autumn apply a good layer of well rotted manure to the growing area. Then in spring approx a fortnight before planting out add a dose of bonemeal to the growing area. the key to growing beans well is to make sure that the soil can retain as much moisture as possible
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.
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. Because of the demands of the season there are not normally enough pots for bean plants however toilet roll tubes are ideal replacements as the length of the tubes allows deeper root gfowth and the tube isn't strong enough to withhold the mature bean plant's roots once planted and will bio degrade into the soil
Planting Out: The plants of runner beans are fairly sturdy and only require an A frame or similar wigwam structure should to 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.
- Scarlet Emporer - Time served allotment stalwart I don't know anybody that hasn't grown these before. Easy to grow, good in the kitchen and a reasonably heavy cropper what more can I say!