Unwins Seeds

Growing Beans

Beans are some of the most popular, grown and easy to grow vegetables in our garden. There are a few different types each with several varieties but in general they all like the same conditions and have similar requirements.


How to Grow Broad Beans

Grown for their shelled beans but can also be eaten, albeit less commonly, whole or dried. They are very easy to grow and are the first beans to harvest. There are both standard (1.2m (4ft)) and dwarf (30cm (12in)) varieties and they form Longpod, Windsor and Dwarf pods.

Site Required for Broad Beans

Although broad beans will grow in any soil it should ideally be fertile and well draining. Avoid very acid or waterlogged soil as well as ground that has had beans growing the previous season. Choose a fairly sunny spot and prepare the ground in the autumn prior to a spring planting by adding manure if needed. One week before sowing apply a general fertiliser.

Cultivation of Broad Beans

There are two times to sow broad bean seeds: autumn sowing in November and spring sowing from February to the end of May. Although they are fully hardy spring sowing is best in colder regions of the country. For autumn sowing and until March it’s best to sow under a cloche, then from March onwards regular sowing can be carried out. Sow one batch a month for succession cropping.

Avoid sowing any seeds that have holes in them. These are made by bean weevils and often don’t germinate. For each row create a double drill 5cm (2in) deep and 20cm (8in) apart. In the first drill sow seeds 20cm (8in) apart, do the same for the second drill but stagger the sowing. Each row should be 60cm (24in) apart.

Caring for Broad Beans

Hoeing is beneficial when plants are young but watering is not necessary until flowers are produced. When the beans form, pinch 10cm (4in) off of the top of the stem to provide an earlier harvest and some protection from black fly. If the weather is dry when the pods are forming, water well. Taller varieties may need support. Once finished cropping cut the stems off at ground level and dig in the roots.

Harvesting Broad Beans

Beans are ready to pick from the end of May to the beginning of October and should be harvest according to type. Within reason, the smaller the pod, the better the texture. For eating green harvest the pods before the beans are visible. Pick beans for shelling when they are visible through the pods; usable beans are those whose scar is still white or green, not brown. Pick often and store by freezing.

Best Varieties of Broad Beans


De Monica

Aquadulce Claudia


How to Grow French Beans

Unlike broad beans, French beans are half hardy and are sown from mid May for this reason. Despite being more tender they are just as easy to grow as broad beans and are a good intermediate crop until runner beans are ready for picking. There are several types including, climbing, dwarf, flat-pod and pencil-pod and are available in green, yellow and purple pods. They are primarily eaten whole when young and tender but the beans can be dried for Haricot beans or eaten fresh as Flageolet.

Site Required for French Beans

French beans will grow in any fertile and well draining soil. Avoid an exposed site with very acid or waterlogged soil as well as ground that has had beans growing the previous season. Choose a sunny spot and prepare the ground in the autumn prior to planting by adding manure if needed. Two weeks before sowing apply a general fertiliser. Climbing varieties benefit from a trench being dug (see runner beans).

Cultivation of French Beans

French beans can be sown in situ or indoors and then planted out; the latter is the best option for colder regions. For outdoor sowing the soil shouldn’t be wet and temperatures lower than 10°c (53°F) produce bad germination results. To sow in April warm up the ground with a cloche before hand or alternatively wait until mid May. Seeds should be sown 10cm (4in) apart in drills 5cm deep, leaving 45cm (18in) between rows. Two outdoor sowings, three weeks apart ensure a long harvest period.

Sowing indoors first is a more reliable method especially if an earlier harvest is wanted. Initiate germination by placing beans on damp kitchen roll and wait for them to swell. Any that aren’t plump can be discarded. Sow seeds in cell trays or root trainers, harden off and plant out when risk of frost has passed. Climbing varieties will need support but it’s beneficial to prop up all plants for ease of harvest and to keep the crop clean.

Harvesting French Beans

Beans will be ready to pick from the end of June when the pods are about 10cm (4in) long. For green beans the pods should be picked before visible signs of the beans appear. For Haricot beans wait until the pods turn a straw colour then hang the plants indoors to dry. When the pods begin to split, collect the beans and dry for a few days before storing them in an airtight jar.

Best Varieties of French Beans



How to Grow Runner Beans

Like climbing French beans, runner beans are also tender and require support. They’re one of the tallest vegetables in the garden reaching heights of up to 3m (10ft) and they produce an abundance of long bean pods that can reach 30cm (12in). They are often more flavoursome than French or broad beans. They are though of as an easy crop to grow but if soil preparation, watering, support and regular harvesting are not done correctly runner beans won’t thrive.

Site Required for Runner Beans

Runner beans will grow in any fertile and well draining soil. Avoid an exposed site with very acid or waterlogged soil as well as ground that has had beans growing the previous season. Choose a sunny spot and prepare the ground in the autumn prior to planting by digging a bean trench. Two weeks before sowing apply a general fertiliser.

Double-dig your trench to give your beans the best rooting environment from planting right through to harvest. Dig out a spit of soil and put it to one side, in a wheelbarrow or mounded nearby. Fork over the bottom of the trench as deep as you can to improve aeration and drainage. Fill up trench with well-rotted garden compost or manure. Replace the soil from the wheelbarrow over the trench.

You should end up with a mound of soil along the trench which will gradually sink down. For an easier, less strenuous method, simply dig a trench a foot deep and fill with organic matter such as vegetable peelings, leaves, weeds, paper and tea bags.

Cultivation of Runner Beans

Runner beans can be sown in situ when the danger of frost has passed from mid May to the end of June. The seeds can also be sown indoors at the end of April and transplanted out at the end of May or start of June.

Before any seeds are sown a sturdy support needs to be erected for the beans to climb up. The traditional method is to use bamboo canes either in a wigwam or in a row but string, wire or mesh works equally well. They can also be grown over existing arches or against fences and walls. Rows need to be 45cm (18in) apart and canes pushed 30cm (12in) deep at 20cm (8in) interval and tied at the top. Sow seeds 5cm (2in) deep on the inside of each cane. Alternatively, if you’ve sown seeds indoors, plant out at the same spacing, loosely tying in young plants.

Caring for Runner Beans

When flower buds appear water well especially when the weather is dry. When plants reach the top of the support pinch out growing tip.

Harvesting Runner Beans

Harvest when pods are between 15cm (6in) to 20cm (8in) from mid July through to the fist frost. Pick continuously, at least every other day, to retain a good harvest. Whole pods are normally eaten but seeds can be dried and stored. Gluts are likely but the beans freeze well. 

Best Varieties of Beans




Pest and Diseases of Beans

• Seed Beetle
• Bean Seed Fly
• Black Bean Aphid
• Downy Mildew
• Powdery Mildew
• Foot Rot & Root Rot
• Pea & Bean Weevil
• Flowers Not Set
• Halo Bright
• Chocolate Spot
• No Pods
• Marsh Spot
• Birds
• Botrytis
• Fusarium Wilt
• Anthracnose


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