Fancy some fabulous French beans?

It’s time to sow some beans

Last week in part one of this series of posts I suggested that all one needs to grow beans in a corner of even the most neglected garden requires no knowledge or expertise. Now is a good time to sow some bean seeds. In this demo I will be sowing a dwarf French bean called Vermont Cranberry. It is a delicious American heirloom that is held by the Heritage Seed Library. However, any variety of bean you can find will do except the dry beans you might have in your store cupboards which won’t grow into tasty green beans. If you have a few bamboo canes or sticks about 2 metres long you could instead sow climbing French beans or runner beans. It isn’t too late to sow broad beans either and for those you don’t need any canes. All you need are receptacles to sow the seeds into and something contain them. Loo rolls are ideal, as are used yoghurt or cream pots which you have made some drainage holes in. In this case I am using a mix of loo-roll centres and slightly larger kitchen-towel centres cut in half. I have put them into a plastic container that once held tomatoes bought from my local supermarket. If using this type be sure that it has some drainage holes in the bottom. A piece of string tied around the top will stop them falling over or out!

Next thing is to fill the loo rolls up with soil. As with lettuce and all seeds you want to sow in this way, you need the soil to be well sifted, free from stones and lumps. If you have any old, used compost it will do the job just as well because seeds do not need fertile soil in which to germinate. I fill the loo rolls to the top and then give them a gentle tap and firm the soil a little so that it looks like this.

Now put one seed into each tube – two if the tube is large – and cover with soil. You want the seeds to be about 2cms below the surface. Not all the seeds will neceassrily germinate so having a few spares is always a good idea. I have sown into 12 tubes and hope I can end up with 10 plants.

Water the pots and put somewhere warm like a windowsill. You can put another plastic tray on top but this is not necessary. Be sure the soil is moist but not water-logged and hopefully in a week or so plants will start to emerge and don’t forget to add a label! If you put something over the top be sure to remove it as soon as the first seeds germinate. With luck you will have some bean seedlings to plant through your cardboard or equivalent weed suppressant early in May. Gardening requires patience!

I sowed the beans on 24th March and they started to emerge on 12th April

I then put them in a sheltered spot outside to acclimatise. This stage is called ‘hardening off’. On 19th April I planted the seedlings out. First I marked up on the cardboard where I wanted to plant them in a block spacings of 20cms x 20cms. Then I cut holes through the cardboard about 5cms in diameter – big enough to easily accommodate the loo-rolls. Using a trowel, although an old table spoon will do the job too, dig holes about 10cms deep – slightly more than the length of the loo rolls.and plant each bean ‘module’. Crumble the soil you remove before filling in the hole. Remove and small stones you might find and any grass/weeds that you dig out. If you have more than one bean growing in a loo roll ‘module’ you can gently tease them apart and plant separately.

Be sure to give the plants a good watering which will help them settle in. Just as long as there are no frosts there should be some beans to harvest in the next few weeks.

6 thoughts on “Fancy some fabulous French beans?

  1. Hi Adam

    I had some French beans from you, District Nurse from Cardiff.
    They are growing well but please tell me do I eat whole pod or just dry the beans? Im new to all this.
    Mant thanks, Kay

  2. I’ve been germinating my peas in loo rolls indoors. But I notice the cardboard inevitably grow white mold after a week or so. I definitely try not to overwater it. Have you experienced this before? Is there anything I can/should do to prevent the mold? I don’t seem to impede the growth of the seedlings.

    • Hi Iris,

      The mould isn’t a problem. It happens to all of us. It is a natural reaction with wet cardboard as it begins the process of decomposition. HAve you tried starting peas in cardboard egg boxes?

      • I have started other seedings in cardboard egg boxes. But with peas and broad beans, I assume they grow such long tap roots that they might run out of space with egg cartons.

        Good to know the loo roll moulds aren’t a major concern. I usually just peel the loo rolls off and feed them into my worm bin after transplant. But maybe I can just shove them into the raised bed directly?

        • Hi Iris,

          You should plant the entire loo roll in the ground and make sure its is fully buried. In this way you don’t disturb the roots and check growth. Peas don’t send down such powerful tap roots as broad beans so are ideal for growing in egg boxes. Automatic spacing too!!

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