Climbing beans not only provide you with a prolific crop of delicious pods, they can be very decorative too, with flowers in a range of colours from white to bright red. They can just as easily be grown in the middle of a flower bed as on the vegetable garden. Climbing beans are easy to grow from seed and can be germinated indoors or planted straight out into the ground. Here is a quick guide on how to plant them and some delicious varieties for you to try.
If you are sowing your beans straight into the ground, then wait until late spring when the risk of frost has passed. Alternatively, sow your beans in a greenhouse or on a sunny window sill during late March, early April. Climbing beans of all varieties, whether they are runner beans or French beans, need to be grown up a support. Any support used needs to be sturdy as these plants put on a lot of growth and can become quite heavy as a result. The usual support for climbing beans is a wigwam of canes.
To grow straight into the ground, first prepare the ground by digging in plenty of organic material like compost or well rotted manure. Beans are notoriously greedy plants and like a rich soil. Pick a sunny site with soil that is not too cold and not too wet. Erect your support, making sure the wigwam is properly secured at the top. Make a hole using a dibber that is about 2ins deep. I normally place two beans in each hole to allow for some that won’t germinate. Sow the beans around 8ins apart.
To sow indoors, fill some small pots with compost and water well. Make a hole, again about 2ins deep and place your bean in. Sow only one bean per pot. Cover with a thin layer of compost and firm in. Water the pots well and either place them in a propagator or cover with cling film and leave to germinate in a greenhouse or on a sunny window sill.
Once your beans start to climb up the supports, water and feed regularly. Once they reach the top of the support system, pinch the tops of the plants pout to prevent them growing any further upwards. When you have harvested your beans, leave the roots in the ground and dig them in. The roots contain valuable nitrogen fixing bacteria which improves the soil fertility for the next crop of plants you will grow.
Varieties of climbing bean
Climbing beans can be grown for their pods or their beans. Runner bean ‘Moonlight’ is a self pollinating bean with white flowers and a tender taste. French bean ‘Purple Cascade’ is a new variety of bean with a stunning purple colour, high yielding and rich in flavour. Haricot beans are grown for their beans rather than their pods and are much prized in Mediterranean countries where they are used in many dishes with a rich tomato sauce.
There is no reason why you can’t grow climbing beans in garden planters, and if you are growing them in amongst your borders as display plants, this is probably the best way. Make sure your container is a large one, use a support as before and don’t forget to water regularly.