French beans - 'Neckargold' and 'Neckarkonigin' - Seed
These seeds require no prior treatment but steeping overnight in lukewarm water will encourage germination.
Runner beans grow big and are vigorous climbers. They need to be well supported – you need a stable structure so that the plants can climb easily. One of the most simplest and attractive ways is to use bamboo canes formed into the shape of a wigwam. Another way is to make a double row about 30 cm apart and tie the tops together at the top with string. Or they can be grown along a wall or fence with netting attached for them to cling to – if using this method it has to be in the right location for the sun.
In the garden - May to July.
Indoors - March to April
There are 2 methods of sowing:
- Loosen the soil with a fork to a depth of at least 30 cm. There should be no fresh manure in the soil and it should not be too cold or wet. Form a sturdy teepee with some canes of at least 3 metres long with 40 cm between them. Sow in a sunny spot up to and including July (when all chance of frost is over). Plant 5 beans at the foot of each cane or string. Cover with soil to about 4 or 5 cm. Press lightly down and sprinkle with water and label your row. Seedlings are very liable to frost damage. A good tip is to germinate indoors with the advantage that the birds can't get at them either.
- Sow in pots, March-April and fill the pots with good potting compost, 5 beans to a pot. Cover with a layer of potting compost to a maximum of 3 cm deep. Press lightly down and sprinkle with water. Stand the pots in a sunny place at room temperature. If the seedlings start to get too big before it is possible to plant out, gain some time by storing them in a cool room. Give the sprouts enough room to grow – keep the pots far enough apart that the leaves do not touch. Give each pot its own cane and tie the plants in as they grow. Plant out after all danger of frost has passed, 5 plants (one pot) per cane or string.
Stringless French beans are generally considered the tastiest and it is actually quite hard to find them with 'string' nowadays as most modern beans no longer have it.
Yellow French beans are the same as butter beans - so-called because of their colour. They have a milder flavour than the green.
These beans are best eaten freshly picked although you can keep them for several days in the refrigerator. Green beans can be boiled or steamed and are a great accompaniment to potatoes, but do not cook too long as they taste best when still a little crunchy! Cut the beans into 2 cm pieces and cook them quickly in a wok. Green beans can also be frozen, although they do loose a little of their crispiness.
You can also use fresh green beans in a slicing machine - blanch and freeze - even from frozen they taste deliciously fresh.
These beans should be trained up canes, chicken wire, netting or special bean wigwams, especially in the beginning. They usually attach themselves and climb away but wild weather can hinder this so give them a hand now and then.
Water only during dry periods. Keep the bed weed-free and your beans will thrive.
Harvest from August-October.
Pick the beans as and when you need them. Use both hands when harvesting, to prevent damage to the bean plant.
- Harvest the young pods before the beans are visible from the outside. At the height of the season it is advisable to harvest at least once a week. Young beans are more tender and fresh.
- When the beans are visible under the skin of the pod, those are best hulled and dried.
- Have an initial pick while the pods are still young but well filled - you will see the beans clearly inside. These whole pods can be dried indoors but the plant will keep growing and flowering and producing more beans, giving you the biggest harvest.