Tag Archives: growing French beans

lashing together bean poles

A Tall Bean Frame Tale

Planning my new allotment garden space has been exciting. Last Autumn, as I pored over seed catalogues filled to the brim with tempting produce, I had some decision-making to do. Whilst the garden space available is quite extensive, I always manage to have more ideas than I have space (or time!), so choices had to be made.

I’m aiming to garden organically and I’m also planning on doing a bit of seed-saving. With this in mind, I sought out seed companies selling ‘old-fashioned’ open-pollinated varieties of vegetables.

A particularly useful online catalogue was ‘The Real Seed Catalogue’ as they only sell open-pollinated varieties. They also give lots of really helpful information about seed-saving. However, the best thing about The Real Seed Catalogue is their wonderful selection of heirloom and heritage vegetables that are not available in many (or any) other places.

‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ Climbing French Bean’

‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ Climbing French Bean’ caught my eye and my imagination. This was a ‘must have’, a real piece of history. I learned that in the 1830s after the US Federal Government introduced the Indian Removal Act, the Cherokee people took some of these beans with them when they were driven out of their Georgia homelands on the long forced march known as ‘The Trail of Tears’. This variety of bean has then been grown and passed on down through the generations. How fascinating … and amazing!

Cherokee Trail of Tears beans germinating
My first sowing of ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ climbing French beans – they’ve hatched!

“A very rare bean,” it says on the brown paper seed packet. The beans themselves are small and black and I am growing them as French beans – they are the tasty green, pencil-thick pods. But as well as eating them in their fresh green state, I will also grow them on to be fully ripe (hopefully!) and save some of the dried beans to sow next year as well as using them as dried beans for Winter soups. The Real Seed Catalogue describes this variety as “incredibly prolific”, so I am hopeful for a good crop. This is the plan!

However, to grow climbing beans, you need something for them to climb. I’d decided to build an old-fashioned tall bean frame from hazel poles. I built a similar tall frame for my very tall peas earlier this Spring – you’ll see it in one of the photos below.

I am anticipating the bean plants growing around 6-8 feet tall (that’s around 2-2.5 metres, if you’re metric 😉 ). Then I needed to add a generous allowance, for tying the bean poles together at the top and for planting deep enough in the ground at the bottom, for the bean frame to be wind-proof on our rather exposed northern hillside. The hazel poles I’m using are around 12 feet (3.5 metres).

Building a bean frame with hazel rods
Setting up the upright poles of the A-frame for the bean frame

I selected two pairs of slightly heavier-duty poles to make my initial A-frame – they’re around 2.5 inches (6cm) in diameter at the butt end. I tied each pair of poles together at the top, measuring and marking each pole at the 8 feet point. The poles are lashed together with thick cotton string. I used a figure-of-eight lashing to hold the poles tightly together but also allowing a degree of flexibility for manoeuvering the A-frame into place.

I’d measured out the row and marked where the frame was going to stand. I had to amend the exact position of the frame as I had been so busy looking down at the soil, I found when I looked up, my bean frame would have stretched half-way into one of the plum trees! Whoops! So, a bit of jiggling and re-measuring was needed.

tools for building the bean frame
Essential tools for planting the bean poles deep enough in the ground: digging iron and lump hammer

Using a heavy digging iron and a lump hammer, I made holes 18 inches (45cm) deep, then pushed the legs of each of the A-frames into place and refirmed the soil around the poles. Climbing very carefully on the step ladders, I added the ridge pole and lashed this in place at each end, making sure the A-frames were (fairly!) perpendicular to the ground. When you’re working with green timber, sometimes it isn’t always exactly straight, so allowances have to be made. These poles were all cut in late Winter, ready for use this Spring.

Next, came the side poles. The bean frame is 2 feet (60cm) wide and 7 feet (2 metres) long. The side poles are placed at 1 foot (30cm) intervals along each side of the A-frame. The side poles are thinner than the A-frame poles, only about 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3cm) in diameter. I didn’t tie the pairs of side poles together initially; I started off by leaning them in their places along each side and resting them on the ridge pole. Then it was back to the digging iron and lump hammer, as I made more deep holes to plant the side poles into.

Building a hazel frame for climbing beans
Arranging the side poles along the bean frame with the main A-frame and ridge in place

Eventually, all of the side poles were planted in their holes. Then it was back to climbing carefully on the step ladders to tie the side poles in place onto the ridge pole. To finish, I added a cross-brace through from corner to corner and lashed this in place at about 3 feet (1 metre) from the ground.

lashing together bean poles
Lashing the cross piece in place on the bean frame for added strength

It certainly seems quite a strong structure and I know the tall pea frame has stood up well to some strong winds already, so I am hopeful for my tall bean frame too.

Hazel frame for climbing French beans
The finished tall bean frame with the tall pea frame visible beyond it

Now it’s time to plant the beans ….

J Peggy Taylor

Autumn Green Beans

Autumn Green Beans – harvest time

Growing green beans in Autumn has been a first for me this year. Buoyed by the success of my initial air-pruning planting experiment earlier in the Summer, I was keen to keep up my air-pruning experimenting momentum.

Here in northern England we would normally sow green beans in May and harvest them through July and August. I decided to sow my green beans in early August and see what happened.

Primavera Dwarf Green Bean - DT Brown seed packet
Primavera Dwarf Green Bean – DT Brown seeds

The beans I am growing are “Primavera”, which is what we call a French bean – a long,thin and round stringless green bean. As I was growing my plants indoors, the variety I’ve chosen is a dwarf bean – the plants only grow around 2 feet high (60cm). In my earlier post I showed you how I’d sown the beans in their upcycled air-pruning plant pots and their progress up to the end of September. So, how have they fared in the last month?

My first green beans ready to harvest on 7th October
My first green beans ready to harvest on 7th October

On 29th September the two plants in the more successful of the two plant pots had grown to their full height and there were several promising-looking green beans on these plants. I decided to give them another week of growing time before my first ‘harvest’ on 7th October, almost exactly two months after sowing. After I’d picked my first beans, there were still several developing beans left on the plants, plus there were now a few beans growing on the plants in the second plant pot. The two plants in the second plant pot have never quite caught up with the plants in the first pot. In my earlier post I explained that light levels were the issue that made the difference between the two sets of plants. The plants have been growing in a bright, west-facing window.

The less well-grown second pot of green bean plants with their beans ready to pick
The less well-grown second pot of green bean plants with their beans ready to pick

If you’ve grown beans before, you’ll know that regular harvesting normally encourages more beans to grow. I kept the plants well-watered and fed with my ‘Magic Potion’ Comfrey feed and this has kept the developing beans growing well. However, since early October, a few colder nights seemed to begin impacting on the foliage and also killed off the remaining flowers. I began covering the glass of the window each night with some recycled packaging I had to hand. I noticed the green beans on the plants seemed to be growing quite slowly now, although we have had a lot of sunny and warm days in October this year.

Second harvest of green beans ready to pick on 22 October
Second harvest of green beans ready to pick on 22 October

Two weeks later, on 22 October, I ‘harvested’ the second handful of green beans, including a couple from the less successful plants in the second plant pot. I would certainly say that whilst I am pleased that at least some beans did grow on all of the plants, the plants haven’t exactly been prolific! Quite a number of small flower buds developed but then fell off before flowering properly. I don’t see these as problems with the Primavera bean plants themselves, nor the fact the plants have been indoors in air-pruning plant pots, but rather that green bean plants are not built to withstand cooler temperatures.

Successful Sage plant and some of the green beans
Successful Sage plant and some of the green beans

To an extent this was not an unexpected outcome to my Autumn bean growing experiment. In the past, in my eagerness to get things growing in Spring, I’ve sown bean plants too early in May and had them fail because the temperature was too low. Getting the plants to germinate seems relatively easy, but it does seem the weather needs to be warm enough during the day and night to enable the bean plants to be productive. I’m pleased to say the Parsley, Thyme and Sage herb plants that I grew from seed this Spring and that have accompanied the green bean plants on the same window ledge are continuing to flourish.

Flourishing Parsley and Thyme plants with fading green bean leaves
Flourishing Parsley and Thyme plants with fading green bean leaves

I shall try sowing some more of the Primavera dwarf green bean seeds next May and see how they do in Summer … making sure I don’t sow them before it’s warm enough of course!

With all of these green beans and green herbs, I decided to link this post to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, on the theme of ‘green’. Do take a look at the wonderful greens others have found for the challenge.

J Peggy Taylor

Autumn Green Beans

Autumn Green Beans: an indoor gardening experiment

How well will Dwarf Green Beans grow in Autumn here in northern England? Our main growing season here is during Spring and Summer, but I’ve read a few articles about gardening people trying to extend the productive season for vegetables.

With this idea in mind and following on from my air-pruning plant pot experimenting over the Summer, I’ve decided to try out my next experiment – growing Dwarf Green Beans in Autumn.

I’d read that the particular strain of bean I have chosen to plant can germinate at temperatures as low as 7 degrees Celsius. Having said that, I intended carrying out my Autumn bean-growing experiment indoors, partly because I anticipated a better crop of beans from a warmer environment and partly because I expect the snails with which I share my back yard would find green beans irresistible!

Upcycled air-pruning plant pots
Upcycled air-pruning plant pots

Creating some suitable plant pots was my first task. If you’ve seen any of my earlier posts on growing plants using the air-pruning method, you may recognise the upcycling transformation of these 4 pint milk cartons into air-pruning plant pots. For anyone looking for more information on air-pruning, you can find the detailed post on how I created the air-pruning pots and simple grow bags here.

Upcycled air-pruning plant pots for Dwarf Beans
D. T. Brown’s Primavera Dwarf Bean seeds ready to be sown on 9th August

My choice of bean is the variety “Primavera” from D.T. Brown’s seed merchants, a dwarf pencil podded French Bean. As I was looking to grow my plants indoors, I needed compact plants that would only grow to about 2 feet/60 cm in height. “Primavera” is highlighted in the catalogue as a D.T. Brown’s Choice vegetable and is expected to crop heavily in normal conditions. This variety is also advertised as being weather-resistant and having good disease resistance, so I was hopeful that I’d made a good choice.

Germinated Green Beans on 17 August
Dwarf Green Beans germinating after 8 days

I sowed two beans in general purpose compost in each of my air-pruning plant pots on 9th August. Just eight days later I was delighted to see the first three beans had germinated and the fourth bean germinated the following day. I kept the plants well-watered and placed them on a fairly sunny and bright west-facing window ledge.

By 12th September I noticed the first tiny beans had begun to develop on the plant furthest to the left in the photos.

Green Beans appearing on 22nd Sept
The first small green beans appearing on 22nd September

By 22nd September I was amazed to count 16 beans on this first plant but sadly there were none to see on the two plants in the right-hand plant pot. I observed that although flowers were forming on the plants in the right-hand pot they did not seem to be growing properly. I decided to move the right-hand plant pot and leave a good space between the pots to allow more light to reach these so-far-unproductive bean plants. Within five days of moving this pot I spotted a couple of tiny beans beginning to develop on these plants.

Green bean progress by 25th September
Green bean progress by 25th September

The beans on the first-cropping and most productive plant have progressed well. I photographed them on 25th September and again today, 29th September. Some of the beans are starting to fill out a little now too … not long before the first few will be ready to pick!

Green bean progress by 29th September
Green bean progress by 29th September

When I checked on my bean plants today, 29th September, I noted a couple of yellow leaves. I haven’t fed the bean plants up to this point but I shall start adding some of my Comfrey “magic potion” when I water the plants now.

We had some dull, damp and misty weather earlier this month but the last week has been much sunnier with some very warm days. As temperatures cool, I shall have to see how my Autumn-grown green beans continue to grow in their air-pruning plant pots. I shall let you know.

J Peggy Taylor