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Beans Can Be Magic
Member Name: Niall85
Advantages: Easy, cheap, great yields
Beans are probably the easiest vegetable to grow, you can get away with growing them in regular soil with just water and a little support. I have grown them now for the last 3 years and each time have been immensely successful - so successful in fact that I end up with enough beans to freeze and feed a family over the winter and enough to give away to several friends!
What follows is a break down of my process of growing beans from seed to harvest.
The first couple of years I grew beans I got some cheap seed from Wilkinsons - by cheap I mean around £1 for 40 seeds. These were good, they grew well and yields were good but my family and friends who ate them compared them to supermarket beans. Last year I came across a variety called "Stenner" and was able to acquire some free of charge from a neighbour (another great thing about growing your own is that people are so generous). I recommend this variety for quick growing, strong plants with superb yields.
Beans can be sown outside in late spring but you must be careful to avoid the frosts, a frost can kill off all your beans in a single night and ruin a few weeks of work. I start mine off indoors in early spring - a kitchen windowsill will do fine, or a greenhouse if you have one. Seeds need planting quite deep, about 2 inches, they will be ok 6-8cm apart. This year I started some of mine off in cell trays (about the size of a normal seed tray but they have 24 individual cells) - an easy way to start a lot off at once or if you are clever you can plant 4 per week from spring through til summer from one side of the tray to the other.
If you have 15cm pots, you can actually sow them in these and they can remain in them for the rest of the year with support (more on that below).
Depending on space you can grow beans in a number of ways:
Pots - a single bean plant can survive in a medium sized pot from sowing to harvest, it will need supporting though.
Bamboo Canes - I use this method - arrange the canes into a tent shape in a row and grow a couple of plants up each cane. You can transplant the seedlings to the base of the cane or even sow directly below - they will find their way up and climb the cane. You can also use a very large pot and create a wig wam shape of canes, then plant 8-10 bean plants in the pot.
Finally, you can actually grow beans up sweet corn plants... they are a great companion crop - you start the sweet corn off which can grow up to 6 feet and the beans climb the corn plants and leaves. This is great if space is an issue.
Beans prefer sun, but are fine in the shade, they just grow a little slower. Plenty of water will be required, if you leave them too long without water you will soon know as the leaves will start to droop literally because they contain water - if they dry up then they will wilt. Make sure the ground is soaked at all times
Pests can be a pain! Rabbits will eat the plants, so will slugs and in some cases birds (a nice family of sparrows decided to start pecking at my beans this week!). I don't believe in using slug pellets and if you have a slug problem always remember they hide under things during the day so don't leave them anywhere they can hide.
A nice seaweed fertiliser will help the plants grow nicer but isn't necessary if expense is an issue.
During a hot spell 2 years ago (yes thats right, there were hot spells!) I let some bean plants get dry too often (my own fault for being lazy, now I know better) and they didn't produce any flowers - I later read that this was the reason so watering is very important.
Last year I let half of my beans run wild to see what happened... the result was bean plants that must have been over 15 feet in height/length (I say length because they got to the top of my canes and then started going across the top of the construction). The others I pinched the growing tip of the plant off at around 8 feet high. The comparison is that the plants where I pinched the top off, they became more bushy and produced quicker sets of beans and more. I would suggest that you pinch the top off as soon as they reach the top of your canes, then like with tomatoes, the effort is put into the flowering and producing of the beans rather than the plant continuing to grow.
I make sure I pick the beans young so they are not stringy. Also, if you leave beans on a plant too long it can stop flowering and will not produce any new flowers and beans. I would say that each bean plant tends to result in about 30 or so beans being harvested. Keep a good eye out for beans because they really blend in well with the leaves! If you miss a few and they develop too far then they cannot be eaten - but they can be kept for seed the following year. I let a plant go too far last year and ended up harvesting around 50 individual bean seeds which I have used this year - the great news is that all that I planted have also grown successfully! I am thrilled about this because I can keep on doing it and never have to buy beans or seed ever again.
I don't eat beans, but love growing them! I have been told that Stenner taste really nice in comparison to shop bought beans, they can also be used in show as well.
I recommend beans because they are so easy to grow, cheap to nurture and yield a terrific amount of fresh veg which can be stored for use throughout the winter. You don't need a lot of space - beans grow up! Not across or down :)
Sow: Early Spring (indoors), Late Spring to Early Summer (outdoors)
Harvest: Late Spring (depending on when you sow) to early Autumn
Summary: Cheap, staple crop that can be stored for many months