Gardening to 'grow your own food' from square foot to half an acre !!
11 posts • Page 1 of 1
Ted always grew runner beans, and I gave all the very tall canes away at the beginning of this year. But I want to grow beans of some sort. He grew a smaller type of bean, they may have been scarlet runners in the polytunnel, which I gave to the recipient of the canes, and these were fairly successful.
What I would like to know is, what kind of low growing bean would be worthwhile growing?
I have some smaller canes left still.
I assume you are thinking of next year, bit late now for this. I've only grown runners recently. When I tried French beans I found they only had one crop of beans while runners went on and on. Maybe I did something wrong.
I believe you can grow runners as bushy plants instead of tall by pinching out the growing tips so that they grow more side shoots instead of going up. If so it might have been Scarlet Runners in the polytunnel.
The problem with runners is frost. Down here in Cheshire we can occasionally get a hard frost in early June. So you can start runner beans indoors and plant them out. Or sow them in the ground lateish and some more later in case the early ones get nipped. Start them indoors too early and you have to pot them on into bigger pots, and they might get leggy from lack of light. They need hardening off gradually (putting outside in the daytime and bringing in at night). This year I did some inside some out. Those of the outside ones that survived looked sturdier but shorter.
The later you start them off the later they'll start cropping. When they get going you need to pick them every couple of days, like deadheading flowers which stop flowering once they have set seed. Runners get tough if they get too big. Once in their stride they will be hard to keep up with. But then they can easily get cut down by frost. So without the polytunnel you may have a small window of cropping. I grow mine on the south side of a very tall holly hedge, which shelters them a bit.
It depends on your location but you CAN sow dwarf french beans in August (a warm spell of weather would be useful to aid germination) and if they are grown in a greenhouse / polytunnel, they should be fine if sown at this time of year. They are self pollinating but if grown under cover, you will need to tap the flowers so that pollen is knocked about (the pods won't develop if there are no seeds forming)
Dwarf french beans don't usually need support as they are compact unlike climbers, and grow to about a foot and half, maybe 2 feet in height. If they start to get heavy with bean pods, you could perhaps use lengths of string tied between 2 posts along a line of plants so that it stops the plants from toppling over if they got too top heavy. If you can get hold of an early maturing variety better still, but I think any should be ready for harvesting by mid October (as autumn weather seem to be milder these days)
If you bought seeds now and trialled a few to see how they do, you'll still have the rest of the seed for sowing next year. When I grew a variety I liked and did well on the allotment, I would leave some pods to mature so I could save the seed (let the pods dry out completely before taking the seed out) Sometimes I might end up with a surplus of seeds over time - I used to scatter the older seed on a bed and rake in about August / September and then left them to germinate, grow and dig in as a green manure about October time about the time we got frosts. Dwarf french beans are one the easiest beans to grow.
There's quite a range of varieties - most are grown for the slender green (yellow or purple) pods which is probably all you might be able to harvest at this time of year, whereas some are grown just for the seed such as the Borlotto beans for putting into soups and stews. Haricot beans (as in baked beans) however, can't be grown in the UK. An alternate to dwarf french beans are bush beans. I once grew a yellow variety which grew less than a foot high but the yield from the plants was amazing. Not many seed suppliers sell bush beans but I got mine from The Real Seeds catalogue (they only sell seed they save that they trial and grow in the UK)
Alternatively, how about broad beans? A variety Aqua dulce is a smaller broad bean plant (only grows about 9 inch to about a foot in height) which is one of the few suitable for sowing in September/October (not too late as the seeds still need soil warmth to germinate but not too early otherwise the plants will grow too big and if outdoors are easily damaged by strong winds in winter) When the weather gets cold, they stop growing until early spring when they put a growth spurt on and flower. You can sow broad beans outdoors in February (obviously not when it is icy cold or snowing) but I prefer early March. Outdoor grown broad beans in winter can easily get damaged by particularly cold spells of weather (imagine the Beast from the East) and strong winds damage the stems which can encourage a fungal disease called Chocolate spot to take hold. If you grow them in a polytunnel, they should be protected from frost and wind and will flower much earlier than outdoor. Like the french beans, they are self pollinating but will need a little help by tapping the flowers.
The winter sown broad beans are more likely to crop before the aphids (black fly?) get bad.
I would think Yorkshire is colder than Cheshire and we get severe frosts in September.
it might depend on how the weather for the rest of the year goes but I live in Nottingham and it is very rare to catch the first frost before the 3rd week in October and even then, more like a heavy dew than frost. For the past couple of years or more (blame climate change), the frosts have been coming later and later ... I don't recall seeing a frost until December / January last year (noted not so much as a gardener but as a motorist setting off for work and whether I needed to defrost the window which seemed unusually frost free) Of course, this year might be something completely different - that's the UK weather for you. What you have to remember is that being further north doesn't necessarily mean the incidence of early frost is earlier than down south - the North Sea with the North Atlantic can influence autumn temperatures (for example, Aberdeen can sometimes be a lot warmer than expected until winter weather sets in proper)
Thanks, I didn't know about dwarf beans, they could be an option for me as well! However, I'm stuck in a city until next year, would it be possible to sow them in flower pots on a balcony?
Funny this thread has been revived. I was thinking about it as I picked my runner beans for tea.
We must have had a frost in Cheshire in the last couple of days, as some of the leaves look very sad.
Dwarf french beans / bush beans will be perfect in pots (make sure the pot size is at least 8 or more inch across per plant) but given recent UK weather, I think it might be wiser to encourage germination indoors where it is warmer (try "chitting" them first - basically place the seeds between 2 sheets of damp, not wet, of paper towel in a container and put somewhere warm such as an airing cupboard or on top of a computer if it switched on most of the day. Check daily, keep the paper towel damp and watch out for the emergence of the seed root and then plant in the pot as soon as possible so that germination will continue in the soil - you could sow 2 or 3 seeds and take out the weaker ones later on) While the weather is cool especially at night, you could bring the pots indoors on to a sunny windowsill. If you are placing them on a balcony, a mini greenhouse or cold frame would be ideal if the weather trend continues to be cool. Have to say that it is getting a little late in the season to sow (early-mid August would have been ideal) but I'm an optimist and think we may yet still get a warmer spell later on. Perhaps only sow a few seeds as an experiment and see how it goes.
It's possible the very wet and windy weather may have done some damage and if the plants are coming to the end of their season, are just showing natural die back encouraged by a rapid drop in temperatures compared to the heat wave just a couple of weeks ago.
MAybe that's it. They are certainly looking sad.
Yes, mine are dying back now too. I've dug most of them up, but left a few in the hope (vain I think!) that they may get a last burst of life
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