I enjoy eating beans, I eat them in a variety of dishes; stir fry’s, curries, soups as well as as a side vegetable. They have also been pretty trouble free to grow in our temperate climate – ie the pests leave them alone (with the occasional exception of birds digging up the seeds), they crop reliably and the plants look good in the garden.
How I grow them:
This year I grew both a bush and a climbing variety of bean and both are still producing beans. I sowed seeds directly into prepared soil. For the climbing beans I used 3 tall stakes tied together at the top to form a tepee, and planted 2-3 seeds at the base of each stake. I am happy to let my Bush beans sprawl so I didn’t give them any form of support. The climbers were sown in October and the bush beans in October, November and December. Due to germination issues with the bush beans I had only one plant from my October sowing , however I sowed more seed in November and December and finished up with a total of 6 plants of varying sizes. Interestingly the most productive plant was the plant that was sown in October. Taking all the plants into account I have had beans pretty much constantly from December onwards in varying quantites.
I grew my beans in my main raised bed, with climbers occupying one square metre and bush beans occupying another square metre but split into two areas. This part of the bed gets sun for about 6 hours per day. This is the first year of using the raised bed and the veggie mix from our local sand and soil place is still pretty good. I added a bit of Dynamic Lifter and sowed the climbers in a square in which I previously grown spinach. The bush beans followed Coriander and Broccoli in one area and Cauliflower and Beetroot in another area. I applied both liquid fertiliser monthly with a watering can. Both were mulched with pea straw.
This year I grew two types of beans in Melbourne and my father, who also grows beans, grew five varieties. He gardens outside of Melbourne, in full sun but in a slightly colder climate. For some veggies this seems to make a big difference in both flavour and productivity of the plant but for beans I have not noticed much difference. In both locations the beans were productive and we had no real problems with the plants themselves. I grew Jade; a French style bush bean, and Purple King; an attrative climber producing purple podded beans. They were grown from directly sown seed, got over 6 hours direct sun per day and were well watered. My father grew; Jade, Blue Lake; a climber producing green beans, a climbing butter bean, Brown Beauty; a French style bush bean, and Romano; an Italian long flat podded bean. All his beans with the exception of the butter bean (which he bought as seedlings at a market) were sown directly where they were to grow.
The only noteworthy problem we had with any of the beans was the germination rates of the Jade beans. We both experienced poor germination rates (about 1 in 3), despite sowing from different packets and within the sow by date. Both packets were from the same seed company though.
In terms of volume of beans per plant Blue Lake was probably the most prolific, followed by Purple King with the Butter Bean being the least prolific.
The taste test was conducted by French cutting all the beans into uniform size pieces and boiling them until cooked. Different beans took differing amounts of time to cook with the Butter Bean being especially quick.
The taste test results:
Blue Lake: – Traditional French bean shape. Generally a very nice bean. However one of the beans in the test was extremely stringy – not just in the normal way but the whole pod was inedible. (Since our test I have experienced this with a couple of other individual beans. Perhaps once the beans get slightly older they get extremely stringy, or it may be that all these beans came from the same individual plant).
Brown Beauty: – Traditional French bean shape. Slightly stringy – this was noted both during the preparation of the beans and on tasting. Very mild flavour. Not the best one we tried.
Butter Bean: – Flattish longish pod. Again very mild with a light beany flavour, would suit kids. They do vary significantly in shape from bean to bean making preparation of the beans difficult.
Jade: – Traditional French bean shape. Firm, a thicker pod that the others with less seed. Excellent flavour and the best texture of all the beans tested.
Romano: – Flatter bean. Very uniform in size and shape. Good flavour, good texture and very easy to cut.
Purple King: – Slightly flattish bean, purple coloured but turns green when cooked. Prettiest plant. A bit insipid, slightly course in texture. The weakest in flavour terms.
Based on our taste test I plan to try growing Blue Lake and either Jade again or Romano. If space allows I may also grow a Butter Bean.
Post Script: – since writing this the quality of the beans produced by the climbing beans has declined significantly. This has not been the case with either Jade or Romano. If you are looking for beans of a good quality over an extended period then the bush beans varieties we tried seem preferable over the climbing types. For freezing or preserving the prolific nature of the climbing beans would be of benefit and the plants could then be removed after the first few weeks of cropping.
From a space perspective the climbers are fabulous, lots of beans in a relatively small area but you do need to be quite careful where you grow them as they will shade anything growing behind them. In previous years I have successfully grown bush beans in large (40cm) pots. Space require to feed our family for the summer ? 1 – 2 square metres.
Next Time: –
In order to ensure a continuous supply for my family of 2 adults and 2 young children, I think I will need to plant 4 bush beans plants each month from September to December and if I have room I will plant Climbers in October. (It would be interesting to experiment with planting the climbers over an extended period, perhaps one side of the tepee each month for 3 months and see how this affected the productivity of the beans). This should hopefully mean I have beans continuously from December til May.