French Beans

French beans taste great and are easy to grow even in the smallest of gardens. Like runner beans but without the stringy bits, they can be eaten in a variety of different ways and if you like variety, you could try growing several different types - they come not just in green but also in a range of shades, including bright yellow, and purple.

Growing French beans:

French beans can be planted out from April but will require protection until all danger of frost has passed. Seeds can be sown directly into the soil outside but sowing seeds indoors will usually give a better germination rate and fewer seedlings will be lost. Remember though that any seedlings grown indoors will have to be hardened off for a few days before planting out. French beans have long root runs so if planting indoors, toilet roll tubes are perfect for the purpose and of course are completely free.

French beans like to be planted in full sun in light soil though they will tolerate heavier soil types as long as the ground does not become too waterlogged and plenty of organic matter is forked in. French beans do need adequate heat and light and so can sometimes be temperamental in the British climate if they have to endure a cold, wet summer but in a good year or under cover they can give a good yield all summer long. If you are worried that you may not be able to successfully grow French beans where you live then runner beans are slightly less fussy and may be a better bet.

Most French Beans will have to be supported with canes or some sort of trellis or framing. The traditional way to grow them is on a frame with crossed canes at both ends and a bar joining the two across the top, resting on the X's. Some French beans can even be grown, with some support, in pots or containers. Once the plants reach the tops of the supports, it is a good idea to pinch out the growing tips to stop them getting tangled and to keep up the production of beans. Some varieties of French Bean can reach 2m in height.

French beans can be eaten green or, if you want haricot beans you can allow the pods to fully develop and then dry at the end of the season.

Why grow French beans in the garden?

French beans are a tasty addition to the kitchen garden or allotment. They can be eaten fresh, frozen or preserved and dried beans can store for a long time. These healthy beans give vital vitamins and should be part of a healthy diet.

But since they are a legume they can also offer a lot more to the garden – increasing soil fertility and helping neighbouring plants or those that come after. Like all legumes, French Beans work with beneficial organisms on their roots to fix nitrogen from the air into the ground. Many other plants, including potatoes and brassicas will benefit from beans as companion plants. 

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Phaseolus vulgaris