Growing Beans – Tips for success

Growing beans is fun and very rewarding! This is especially true if you are new to gardening or you would love to grow food with children. There are three types of beans I would personally recommend.

One is broad beans which can be started very early in the year in the UK. The other is a climbing bean called Cobra which I have had great success with in the past years. To round it off, I’ll add the dwarf beans.

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Growing Broad Beans in your Garden

Broad beans can tolerate and prefer cool temperatures. This is the reason they can be started earlier in the year. The beans are larger in size and great to sow with children.

Sowing Broad Bean Seeds

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Broad bean seeds

This February, I sowed these broad bean seeds in cardboard tubes. The variety I am growing is called Masterpiece Green Longpod, but there are many varieties you can choose from. These hold just the right amount of compost for the beans to germinate. Fill them with seed sowing compost or multipurpose compost. Prop them up in tray or tub; I placed a layer of grit underneath so that they don’t sit in water. Sow your seeds to the depth described on your seed packet and water. I placed them in a sheltered place on my patio. You can keep them in a cool porch or cold greenhouse too. Protect from frost!

You can of course sow them straight outdoors in a prepared bed as I have done in previous years, however you will have to wait till the soil has warmed up a little.

Planting Broad Bean Seedlings

Broad beans will germinate within 2 weeks and after that it is just a question of keeping the compost moist. Even in cool temperatures, the compost can get very dry.

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Broad bean seedlings successfully growing in cardboard tubes!

The beauty of growing seedlings like this is that you can plant the whole tube into the prepared bed! I planted these at the end of March. The card board has held the compost for germination and now it will easily decompose once it is planted into the soil.

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Broad beans settling well in the raised bed

Broad beans grow very quickly and within a few weeks, depending on the weather, will begin to flower. Their flowers are some of my favourites as they are so beautiful. Think the bees love them even more as these are some of the first flowers in the early part of year!

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Such striking flowers on the broad beans!

Soon of course, we see the beans after these gorgeous flowers have been pollinated. Throughout the growing season, these broad beans will need to be watered so that the compost is always moist. This will also help them set their pods well.

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Broad bean pods growing on the plants

It doesn’t take long for the pods to grow and I love to harvest them young. I like to slice them and cook them lightly, pod and all, while they are young as they are so tasty! You can wait till they are bigger of course for the shelled beans inside. Some great recipes in this post if you are ever stuck!

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Fresh homegrown harvest of broad bean pods, delicious!

Problems in Growing Broad Beans

One of the issues that affects broad beans is black fly. Black fly can affect the broad bean production if the infestation is high. However, light infestations are easily remedied. When I am watering the broad beans, I spray water onto the black fly to wash them off. Doing this regularly will help.

Also, plant nasturtiums as a companion and they will attract the black fly away from the broad beans. Nasturtiums are easy to grow from seeds and a pesticide-free way of controlling black fly.

Once the broad bean pods start setting, you can also pinch off the growing tips of the plants and this will help to reduce the black fly. These tips are delicious in a stir fry, so not wasted at all!

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Pinching off the growing tips of the broad bean plants

So a great vegetable to start the year off and very satisfying as broad beans are one of the first harvests!

Growing Climbing Beans in Your Garden

Climbing beans are great to add to any garden or outdoor space in a pot or planter! These are easy to grow in a small space as climbing beans can be grown vertically. They will need to climb and you can give them a few strong canes or a trellis and they will be happy.

I love growing Cobra beans as this variety is very reliable and a great producer. I have grown it for the past three years and it has given me huge harvests!

Sowing Cobra beans seeds

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Cobra climbing bean seeds for sowing

These beans like the soil to be warm to germinate well. However, you can give them an early start by starting them indoors in spring in the UK. Seeds can be sown in small pots or cardboard tubes filled with seed sowing or multipurpose compost. Water them to keep the compost moist and away from frost or cold temperatures. A bright windowsill is a great place for this. They will germinate within a couple of weeks.

I prefer to sow the seeds straight into the prepared beds, although a few weeks later! This is fine for me as I am not in a hurry for the summer beans … or may be the real reason is that I have usually run out of indoor spaces to sow beans!

Planting Cobra beans

If you start them indoors, then the seedlings will need getting used to the outdoor conditions before you plant them in the beds. This is called ‘hardening’ and it means leaving the seedlings outside in a sheltered position in the daytime but bringing them indoors at night.

Once the danger of frost is over, which is usually around May in the UK, you can plant your seedlings outdoors in prepared beds, pots or planters. I keep a distance of around 10-15 cm between the plants in the raised beds. A large pot could possibly host 2-3 plants. It is good to give a thought to how you will be supporting the beans before you plant. Some gardeners prefer to place their support structure in first before they plant.

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Cobra bean seedlings loving the warmer days in the raised bed

These will now grow very quickly … each time you turn they will seem to have put on even more height!

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Young Cobra bean plants growing taller everyday

Problems in Growing Cobra Beans

As with broad beans, black fly can be an issue with growing Cobra beans. Similarly, growing nasturtiums as companion plants really help to steer the black fly away from the beans, and you can read about this in my previous post.

Supporting the Growing Beans

As these are climbing beans, they will need some form of support. I like to use bamboo canes which I reuse every year. However, if you have a trellis or an arch feel free to be creative. You can even make a garden feature out of it!

Again, bamboo canes or other wooden sticks can form a variety of structures depending on your space. I have small raised beds which means space is limited, so my choice is a teepee of canes which are 6 feet long, joined together at the top with some jute string.

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Helping the Cobra beans along!

Keep the compost moist as the long summer days begin. Water deeply rather than short sprinkling spells to ensure that the roots are receiving sufficient water. Once the flowers appear, it is a good idea to start giving the beans a regular seaweed feed too.

It will not be long before you see beans appearing on the menu! The more you harvest, the more beans the plants will produce!

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Heaps of Cobra beans in the summer harvest!

It is also very easy to save their seeds. Let a few bean pods mature and dry on plants. Pick them once they are dry and leave them on a windowsill indoors for a couple weeks to ensure they are completely dry. Shell the beans and store them in a paper envelope or glass jar for sowing the following year. If you have loads you can also cook with them, they are delicious!

Growing Dwarf Beans in Your Garden

These are pretty special in their own way as they do not need any support. As the name implies, they remain short but don’t let this fol you. They are very productive and a great way to start growing green beans in your outdoor space. I am growing the Rondo variety but there are lots to choose from!

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Dwarf beans growing in a raised bed

Dwarf beans love warmth and they also grow very quickly. They are the first to produce beans compared to the Cobra beans. Also, these beans can be eaten whole so there is no waiting time for them to mature.

Sowing and planting is similar to the Cobra beans above and again I prefer to direct sow them outdoors. As they grow quickly, these are great to sow in the the summer months. Especially after you have removed lettuces which may have gone to seed.

Problems in Growing Dwarf Beans

Similar to Cobra beans, dwarf beans are susceptible to black fly but nasturtiums are a real bonus as a neighbour! Slugs may also be an issue but I have found that a local slug pub will detract them happily. This is a container like a recycled clean yogurt tub sunk in the soil with some beer poured into it. Slugs love the smell of beer so will prefer it to your young bean seedlings!

Enjoy Growing Beans

So whichever variety or type you decide on, enjoy growing them and fresh harvests will not be too far. Homegrown beans are so delicious and worth growing them even in a pot or a planter if you do not have a garden. Happy growing!

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