Vines and Other Climbing Plants


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. 

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