Peas and Beans

Peas and beans (including runner beans, French beans and broad beans) grown at home will be far superior in taste and flavour to any that can be bought in the supermarket. They are worth the time and effort it takes to grow them.

French beans need supporting 
as they grow.

How do I grow runner (green) beans?

Runner beans, with their bright red flowers and long, green pods, can be grown up decorative supports in the ornamental garden. They prefer a sunny, sheltered position and a rich, moisture-retentive soil. Sow directly outside in late spring or grow from seed under glass in early spring for planting out in early summer. Build a support for the beans before sowing, which is traditionally made up of a double row of canes tied at the top.

How do I know when to harvest runner beans?

Pick the pods when they have reached 20–30cm (8–10in) in length and before they become stringy and hard. It is important to pick regularly or the plants will stop flowering. Surplus beans can be frozen.

How do I grow French (green) beans?

French beans can be either dwarf or climbing. The dwarf varieties are the most popular because they take up little room. Both types are frost tender and need to be sown or planted out after all risk of frost has passed. You can also buy coloured varieties in yellows and purples to add interest to the vegetable plot. French beans require an open, sunny site and fertile, free-draining soil. Sow outdoors in early summer in a single or double row. Climbing French beans will need some form of support.

How do I know when to harvest French beans?

Harvest French beans when the 
seeds are still immature on the plant. Pick regularly to encourage new 
pods to form. French beans are best eaten fresh, but they can also be frozen. However, they can be dried and stored.

Peas grow up a wigwam of bamboo canes.

How do I grow peas?

Peas need an open, sunny site, but can tolerate light shade. Grow in a fertile, moisture-retentive soil (do not grow in a soil that is liable to become waterlogged). Varieties are categorized as first earlies, second earlies and maincrop. Sow first earlies outside in mid- to late autumn and overwinter under cloches. For a slightly later crop, sow second earlies in late winter to early spring, starting them off under cloches. Maincrop varieties are sown at regular intervals from early spring to mid-summer without protection. Protect the crops from birds immediately after sowing. Provide some means of support, 
such as pea sticks, or plastic or 
wire netting.

How do I grow broad (fava) beans?

These are the hardiest and earliest of all the beans grown. There are green, white or red varieties available. Broad beans need an open, sunny site that is sheltered from strong winds and a well-manured heavy soil with good drainage. Sow overwintering types 
in late autumn. Other varieties are sown from late winter to late spring. Sow in double rows in a shallow trench. The crop can also be 
started off under glass in late 
winter and planted out in spring. Provide plenty of water during any dry spells and some form of support for taller varieties.

How do I know when to harvest broad beans?

Pick the pods when they are swollen. Do not allow them to become tough and leathery. Continous harvesting will extend the growing season. Although broad beans are best eaten fresh, they can also be frozen or dried.

How do I know when to harvest peas?

Harvest when the pods are plump, but not yet fully grown, starting from the bottom of the plant and working your way up. Keep picking the pods to encourage further production.