The fantastic cropping dwarf or bush beans are quick and easy to grow, and certainly deserve a place in your veggie garden.
The wide range of bush beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) includes French beans, string beans, kidney beans and haricot beans. They have broad oval to heart-shaped leaves and depending on variety, pink, purple or white flowers which bees and bumblebees love, so pollination is usually not a problem.
Beans like a sunny spot in fertile, well-draining soil so add compost and well-aged manure before sowing or planting — they can be grown from seed or you can purchase plants from garden centres in spring or summer.
You can sow seed directly into the garden, or into trays and then transplant, however it’s best not to sow seed in the garden too early in spring — they need soil temperatures of around 14 degrees to sprout uniformly. Sow seeds about 10cm apart with 10cm between rows, and run your rows north-south so they get maximum sun. Push seeds into the soil to a depth that is a little over their length, or make a drill, drop seed in and pat soil down. Don’t water too much after planting — too much water may rot the seed.
If your garden is windy, support plants with wire netting or a low bamboo lattice. Another way is to stake the ends and middle of rows, and then interlace twine through the plants before tying it to stakes. Mounding plants when they are about 15cm also helps keep them anchored.
You’ll need to protect from slugs and snails when the plants are young, and liquid fertilise them at flowering.
In dry weather they’ll crop better if you give them a deep soaking at least once a week — a good layer of mulch also helps. Water plants early on fine mornings to reduce the risk of fungal infection.
Harvest beans around two months from planting — regular picking every three to five days keeps them flowering and cropping longer.
For a continuous crop, sow another row when seedlings in the previous row have their first true set of leaves — you can sow beans throughout summer until late February.
Varieties range from tried and true older varieties, such as ‘Green Crop,’ to modern hybrids. If you like a mellow colour and flavour, try ‘Golden Wax,’ and for heavy yields of dark green, crisp pods try the reliable ‘Contender.’
‘Top Crop’ produces prolific quantities of slender, medium-green pods early in the season, and freezes well.
The exotic heirloom Italian bean ‘Albenga’ produces string-less variegated pods.If you’re keen on shell-out bush beans try ‘Borlotto,’ a variety with wide, red speckled flat pods and speckled, red and yellow beans that are good eaten fresh or dried.
Whatever bush bean you try, remember to dig these nitrogen-fixing legumes into your soil after the end of harvest.