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Caring for French Beans

Caring for French Beans

French Bean Care - Support
picture - supporting French Beans

Dwarf French Beans may not require support in good conditions. However, the weight of the pods does tend to drag them to the ground, attracting slugs and other pests. It is best to tie them into a short bamboo pole or let them scramble through twigs inserted into the ground next to them. This will also give some protection to the plants if the weather conditions turn windy.

The climbing varieties of French Beans grow to about 1.8m (6 foot) high and they definitely need support. The idea is to provide a structure which their tendrils can grow round and pull the plant up. 

Picture of wigwam for beansThe most attractive form of support is a wigwam - four or five bamboo canes tied together at the top will be sufficient. The growth at the top will be a bit crowded, but this structure will still produce a good crop of beans.

It is a good idea to twist some gardening twine round the bamboo canes, this will give the growing plants more to grab hold of. 

Where space is really short, this type of structure can be used for container growing French beans. In this case, insert one cane centrally in the container, tie six or so lengths of garden twine to the top of the cane and secure the other ends of the twine to the edge of the container. Plant three or four seeds, which will then grow up the twine. The plants will need their tips pinching out when they reach the top of the twine.

Other methods are to erect a criss-cross of canes, each pair tied together at the top, or simply a line of canes connected together with mesh netting. Finally, don't forget that French beans can be be grown up an existing fence which has been covered with mesh netting.

French Bean Care - Water and Feed

The requirements of French beans are simple - water and weeding, possibly some feeding. All three can be greatly helped by a mulch of organic material spread round the plants. This will help retain moisture, keep the weeds down and gently feed the plants. If the soil has been prepared as described previously the only other attention is hand watering in very dry conditions, especially as the flower buds begin to develop. A special treat for French Beans is watering with Tomato Plant food every couple of weeks if possible. Finally, pinch out the growing tips when the plants reach the top of the supports.

French Bean Care - Harvest

French Beans will be ready for harvesting in July, and this should continue into early October. Pick the beans when they are young - leaving them too long will result in a crop of stringy beans. Length of the beans does not let you know if they are ready, rely on the texture of the beans - they are past their best when the skin is coarse textured and the beans inside begin to show through like small marbles.

To maximise the crop and the cropping period, pick the beans frequently to encourage new beans to grow. Most French Beans seed write-ups claim to be suitable for freezing but in our experience they end up loosing all their texture and crunch.

French Beans and Cooking
French Beans are delicious straight from the garden. For a standard vegetable, cook them in boiling water for about 10 to 12 minutes.

They will keep in the fridge for 3 days or so. As for freezing, we have found that French beans go mushy when frozen. Certainly, the excellent varieties Twiggy and Goldukkat, do not freeze very well. We will be investigating this further with different varieties over the next year or so. If you do want to try freezing French beans, then click here for instructions.

Try or tasty French bean soup recipe by clicking here. It's easy to make and freezes extremely well.