The Goodies were big in Australia, much bigger than they were in their native Britain (or so I am reliably (?) informed by my Pommie partner. Of course the Goodies sang about string not beans but the sentiment is the same. Everybody loves beans, everybody needs beans – and apologies to Graham, Tim & Bill, but I disagree, people love them more than string. Everyone in my household does, and that is a rare enough thing, and thus noteworthy.
As a result of this love for beans I am growing heaps of them. (I say love but the truth is that my 5 year tolerates them, but frankly in a 5 year old’s vegetable world that means love doesn’t it?) Fortunately they are easy and grow well in Melbourne. An almost trouble free crop?
I like to grow a mixture of dwarf and climbing beans, dwarf because they are productive and climbing because they look pretty while producing. My personal view is that you actually get better yields per square metre from dwarf than climbing beans which is a bit counter intuitive given that you would think the use of vertical space would help but I’m not sure it does. There are a couple of caveats I would put on that- it is probably variety dependant and it can be easier to succession plant climbing beans – the succession can be in the same space as the initial planting and grow up the first plants giving yields over a longer period. Having said that many dwarf beans have built in succession crops – ie they have two flowering bursts but there tends to be a gap of a few weeks between the two.
This year my main dwarf beans are Gourmet Delight and Majestic Butter. I have written on Majestic Butter , which is a yellow-coloured bean previously, but Gourmet Delight is new and I have to say it lives up to it’s name. I have been absolutely delighted with yields and the flavour and texture is great.
I sowed seed in early September and the plants started cropping in very early December. Melbourne had a warmish Spring but not ridiculously warm. I got about 4 weeks worth of beans, the plants had a couple of weeks break. put on some new flowers and have just started to crop again. I have 6 plants in an area that is about 3/4 of a square metre and gets about 5-6 hours of sun per day. Germination rate was close to 100%. If you were growing just Gourmet Delight beans then a full square metre grown in full sun would probably be more than enough for most peoples needs provided you succession planted a bit to cover time when the plant’s production slowed.
My climbing beans are hard to identify. Some are self sown from last years poorly cleaned up garden (and were from a mix Dad gave me), some are Kentucky Wonder (thanks Nina) and some are Lazy Housewife (thanks to a reader – maybe Yvonne?). I’m also growing Purple King and Scarlett Runner but they are easy to tell apart.
I’m hoping that Nina will read this and let me know what shape her Kentucky Wonder are. Of the unidentified beans (all green) some are short and flattish and there are two others than are long, one flatish and long and other more rounded and long. Naturally images of Kentucky Wonder and Lazy Housewife online show identical looking long rounded beans so I may not be able to differentiate but there is one image of a short flattish Kentucky Wonder so maybe…..
All varieties seem to be doing well. The self sown beans produced earlier than the ones I sowed, cropping about the same time as the dwarf beans. The climbing beans I sowed (Kentucky Wonder and Lazy Housewife) started producing about 3 weeks after the dwarf ones, towards the end of December and are making up the majority of my current harvests.
I am growing Purple King beans because I’ve heard they are good as dry beans. Although I like them as a ‘green bean’ (they go green when cooked) I find that the green varieties generally have a slightly better texture – occasionally Purple King get a bit stringy. The plants are pretty though.
Not as pretty as Scarlet Runner though:
This particular plant was sown about 4 years ago. They are herbaceous (ie they die away in winter and reappear in Spring) perennials when grown in Melbourne. I will be interested to see how long they last. This plant was looking pretty ropey after a couple of days close to 40 degrees C.
This is the first year that I have been able to harvest beans from the plant – it has grown them in the past but they have always been eaten before they reached anything bigger that a little finger. This year though there are quite a few on it. A sign that the rats have moved on????
I would love to hear your thoughts on growing beans, varietal recommendations, experiences and so on.