How to grow your own French beans
French beans are not frost hardy and should not be sown or planted until risk of frost has passed. Choose ground that has had manure added during the winter or dig in well-rotted compost or farmyard manure before planting. French beans do best in a sheltered site where they are not rocked around by strong winds. Seeds should be sown between April and July for harvest between June and October.
When and where to grow French beans
- When to sow: April – July
- When to harvest: June – October
- Ready in: 2 months
- Challenge level: Straightforward
French bean seeds should never be sown if the ground is wet and cold. They prefer light soil, but can be grown in heavy clay soil if enough fine organic matter is forked in.
How to plant French beans
French beans prefer warm weather so should be sown under cover in April or outside in mid-May once threat of frost has passed. It is advantageous to sow the seeds in pots and keep them in a greenhouse or utility room until they begin to germinate (this takes up to 21 days). Sow two seeds in a 9cm pot and once they have germinated, the seedlings can be grown on outside until they are large enough to plant out in May. Remember to avoid pouring water in the drill at sowing time and make a second sowing three weeks after the first.
How to grow French beans
Any bush variety of French beans can be grown in a large container by sowing the seeds directly into the compost at the beginning of May. Climbing varieties can be grown in containers but will need support with bamboo canes. Plants that have been raised indoors will need to get used to the outdoor temperature and conditions before they can be planted outside – this can be done with a cloche or mini greenhouse.
Caring for French beans
Hoe between the rows to keep weeds down and water if necessary especially as the beans begin to flower. Support the climbing varieties with tall bamboo canes and place twigs around the dwarf varieties if they are grown in an exposed position as the can be beaten down by heavy rain and rocked around by strong winds. This will also help to protect your beans from slugs!
Harvesting French beans
Begin to pick the beans as soon as they are large enough for use as regular picking will increase pod formation, thus producing a bigger crop. When harvesting, you may want to use scissors to snip off the beans individually and prevent damage to the rest of the flower clusters by tearing them. Keep picking too – otherwise your plant will put all of its energy into over-ripening the seeds, rather than creating fresh beans for you to harvest and enjoy.
Slugs and snails love French beans so start your preferred method of control as soon as the seeds germinate. Birds can be a real pest too. Pigeons especially enjoy eating the seedlings, buds, leaves and vegetables on green beans so it’s worth covering your crops with netting or fleece. Scarecrows work for a while too if you’re feeling adventurous.
Aphids, which are indicated by colonies of greenfly on the shoot tips of plants or on leaves, suck sap and excrete a honeydew which encourages the growth of black moulds. You can squash aphid colonies with your finger and thumb or you can use any biological pest prevention.