If you’re thinking of planting some green beans this year, you may have instantly thought of runner beans. French beans are a great alternative and, as a bonus, are actually much easier to grow. Many people also prefer their texture and taste to runner beans, meaning they’ll make a great addition to your evening meals – even for families with fussy eaters.
French beans – also known as spring beans – are also rich in nutrients, such as vitamins A and B, along with iron and folic aside.
There are three main varieties you can grow in your garden – Dwarf, bush and climbing.
However, they are a tender plant, and therefore don’t like frost or cold, which means it is important to sow your french beans when the weather has started to get a bitter warmer.
Britain is finally seeing some sunnier skies right now, so does this mean it’s time to sow your French beans?
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When to sow French beans
According to LoveTheGarden.com, you should sow seeds individually in pots in April and May – or if sowing outdoors, wait until late May or June.
However, writing for Express in 2017, Alan Titchmarsh says you can start to sow in March if you have a sunny spot indoors.
He said: “Both French and runner beans are frost-tender, so sow some seeds now on a warm windowsill indoors.
“Soak them in tepid water for a couple of hours first, then push one or two seeds into three half-inch pots filled with multipurpose compost.
“You’ll need 15 to 20 plants for a useful row and double that if you have a family of four.”
The gardening expert added: “After sowing, give each pot a few drops of water if the compost seems dry but avoid watering it again until you see the shoots showing – it’s very easy to overdo it and bean seeds rot easily.
“The plants can stay in the same pots indoors till it’s safe to plant them out, after the last frosts, from mid-May onwards.
If it’s warm in may, you can sow your French beans outdoors – either into pots or directly in the ground.
The Royal Horticultural Society says you should sow one bean per pot, placing the bean in the centre at a depth of about two inches.
Place the pot on a windowsill or in a propagator to germinate.
The beans will grow fast in warm conditions, and they’ll need watering regularly.
When the plant reaches three inches tall, move it in to its final position.
You can pick the pods when they’re about four inches long.
You’ll know they’re ready to be harvested as they’ll snap easily – but make sure you pick them before you can see the beans through the pod.
If you harvest your beans regularly, your bean plant will crop for several weeks, feeding you and your family throughout the season.
Or, if you leave the pod to dry on the plant you can then use them as haricot beans.