Kitchen Garden: Beans
Nothing compares to home grown beans, fresh, crisp, nutrient-rich, and easy to grow.
Words: Graham Ross
For 200 years, fresh beans have been the second most popular home-grown vegetable in Australian gardens (after tomatoes, of course). With low calories, lots of protein, fibre, and packed with vitamin C, A and K, beta-carotene, folate and potassium. But the best bit? There are varieties for every situation.
My first attempt at growing beans was not a positive one. I was in kindergarten and we germinated seeds on a saucer of moist cotton wool. I was, even aged four, very excited as I’d seen my grandfather’s beans and loved eating the pods straight off the vine. Here’s what happened: The seeds germinated – hurrah! A white shoot with two leaves appeared – wow! Then a root appeared out the bottom and it took off – fantastic! We counted the seeds that shot, but then, they were thrown out – bitter disappointment.
Despite my experience, I love growing beans today because they are such a simple and productive crop to grow. Suited to large pots on a balcony or growing straight in the garden. There are three basic types of beans to grow: runner, climbing, and bush or dwarf.
In warm and cool temperate climates, they’re a summer crop but in the tropics, they grow all year round. Soils need to be well drained and enriched with manure and compost. Before planting, add a dusting of lime, a little bit of organic matter and fork in well. Sow seeds 3-4cms deep, water well, but do not water again until germination occurs.
For tall growing varieties, you will need to support the vines. Fashion a tripod or tee pee out of bamboo stakes or use a wire trellis. For dwarf varieties, no staking is required.
Once flowers appear, apply an organic liquid feed high in potassium to encourage more.
Simple, the more you pick the more they produce.
Dwarf or bush varieties: ‘Borlotti’, ‘Cherokee Wax’, ‘Butter’, ‘Bonaparte’, French, ‘Snap’, and ‘Hawkesbury Wonder’.
Climbing beans: ‘Purple King’ with high yielding purple pods eaten raw, but turn green when cooked, ‘Blue Lake’, a very prolific producer, and ‘Snake’ – long, thin pods up to 40cm long fruit.
Runner beans: ‘Scarlet Runner’ is ideal for cooler climates. If the roots are left in the ground, it will reshoot next spring.
Pests and diseases
White fly is the worst pest, but it’s easily controlled with a yellow sticky trap. Spraying doesn’t work.
To extend your harvest, sow another crop once the first sowing shows their first true bean leaves.