Even though most French bean seed packets suggest sowing until June, it’s now that I always step up my growing.
In recent years, I’ve sown the reliable, productive dwarf green variety in July and August. Mr. Fothergill’s Tendergreen is my favourite, and has been brilliant on my allotment.
From my experience, French beans are one of the rare crops that has never failed, and I’ve found the late sowing tactic to be great for a number of reasons.
This time of year, seeds germinate within days and French beans are no exception. I sowed the seedlings pictured on the 7th of July, and they’d germinated within 5 days. Only two weeks later, and they’re ready to go out onto the plot. If I get them in today, I reckon they’ll be cropping by the middle of August, easily.
I will sow a crop in August too, with the intention of freezing most the harvest. French beans freeze very well, and during winter provide a welcome change from the leafy and rooty veg that dominate the colder months.
This tactic will also save money by extending the number of vegetables available to me over once winter arrives.
French beans will stomach drier, poorer conditions than other veg so will grow well if space is tight and you’re planting out where other veg has been taken out. The other veg will have taken nutrients from the soil, so an unfussy and undemanding plant like French beans is the perfect choice for these conditions.
How to Grow
I sow two seeds in pots of multipurpose compost and leave outside to germinate, and I plant them out once the seedlings reach about five or since inches high. When putting the plants in the ground, I water well and then pop a good mulch of compost around the base to keep as moisture in as possible. This is particularly useful if the weather is as warm as it has been.
One mistake I often make is missing pickings and letting some of the beans get quite big. They can get tough if you let them grow too large, so its best to try and pick when the beans are young. French beans can be incredibly productive, and keeping up is sometimes tricky, but they will continue to crop if you harvest regularly.
A successful Autumn sowing will see French beans available until well into October.