Beans –Runner -
Climbing – Climbing French.
As far as climbing
vegetable plants are concerned, beans must be about the most commonly
grown, but most people don’t appreciate how many different types
will happily grow here in Great Britain. Most beans need lots of
moisture to grow well, so it always a good idea to dig in lots of
humus into a trench, or under the row, before planting. Some new
varieties however, are being bred to be more tolerant of water
shortage thus enabling a good crop to be grown in adversely dry
Summers, or on poorer soils.
Traditionally the Runner bean was the favourite in the UK to be seen
on every allotment and the Climbing French bean, was favoured more on
the Continent. However, with better stocked vegetable counters in
supermarkets and the increasing interest in people growing their own
vegetables, there is now an enormous range of both varieties and types
available as seed.
Runner beans have always had a tendency to become stringy and tough if
left grow too big, although there are many varieties claiming to be
“Stringless.” Normally grown up 8 foot canes the plants tend to be
taller growing and more vigorous than French climbing beans which can
be grown on slightly shorter canes, although there are bush varieties
of French beans freely available as well. French beans are smaller and
rounder than Runners and even more expensive to buy as a vegetable
making them a very worthwhile crop to grow at home. French beans are a
more delicate bean than Runners, so there is no need to slice them
when cooking and cooking time is less as well. French beans also
freeze better than Runners. One popular colour variation frequently
seen is the Blue French bean. Available as both Climbers and Bush,
they look very different growing on the plants, but they do lose their
colour and turn green as soon as they are placed in boiling water.
There are many other types and varieties of non climbing beans that
can be grown including the old fashioned English favourite that is
often called the Kidney bean. Similar to the smaller Haricot bean, it
can be dried for use out of season as can the other old favourite, the
Broad bean and new, exotic import the Soya bean which now has strains
available that are more suitable to the vagaries of the British
Summer. Many of the beans that are meant to be dried, have pods that
can be eaten whole when young, before the beans develop inside, much
as you might with the garden Pea type called Mangetout.
A few of the Haricot type beans are occasionally also available as
Climbing varieties and along with some other climbing beans, have
interesting colour variations including reds and yellows.
Another interesting aspect that is being developed with climbing
beans, are the flowers. Runner beans have always had quite big, red,
flowers, but now strains are being created with flowers of other
colours, so that plants can be put at the back of flower borders to
give height to the flower display and the added bonus of a good crop
of edible beans for the kitchen as well.
All beans are Legumes that as such have Nitrogen fixing nodules, which
develop on their root systems. Nitrogen is an important chemical for
the growth of plants. It is in the air around all plants, but they
cannot use it unless it is in the right form, or chemical compound.
The bean family “Fix,” it in the soil as a compound thus making it
available for other plants to use and beans are therefore an essential
plant to be grown as part of any planned crop rotation.
Crop rotation will also help prevent some of the many soil borne
problems that can affect the different types of beans and good soil
management will help discourage weevils and beetles. Bean Mosiac Virus
can also be a problem and can be completely avoided by selecting a
particular variety of bean that has been bred to be resistant to it.
Other problems that affect certain types of beans more than others
include Black aphids and mice who will go straight for freshly sown
beans in the soil before they have had chance to germinate.