Friday, January 23

The French can climb too

Last year after reading all Mark's (Mark's Veg Plot) enthusiasm for Cobra - a climbing French bean we decided to give it a try. We were impressed.

We like to grow a mixture of runner and French beans. In the past the runners have been grown up canes arrange teepee or wigwam style.
Often this method of support makes picking a bit difficult as the beans mass together at the top of the frame and also the beans inside the structure are well hidden and difficult to access. Maybe if we planted less plants and spread the canes further apart this would be less of a problem. Anyway we decided to try out a different method and arrange the canes in a sort of tent formation.


As you can see in the photo above we also employed our new best allotment friend - weed control fabric.

This set up was very successful. Not only was it easier to harvest beans but the arrangement seemed to stand up to the wind better - although I should have attached some canes as cross pieces along the sides of the frames for a bit more strength.

Last year as usual we grew three varieties if runner beans. Our total yield was just short if 38kg


Each of the runner bean varieties produced what we considered a good harvest considering that the discrepancy may be in part die to out inability to keep on top of the picking.

To be honest we probably don't need three varieties but we like to have a variety of flower colour.



If you don't have a vegetable area I think these plants would fit into an ornamental garden well.

The climbing French bean - Cobra had a smaller yield but the beans are smaller and we felt this was good. 



I've decided to compare the harvest of the dwarf bean harvest for 2013 as to be honest we rather neglected picking the dwarf beans last year (2014). This was for the same reasons as we will only be growing climbing French beans not dwarf varieties.
  • The yield per plant is better
  • The beans stay cleaner
  • Slug damage is reduced
  • Less beans twisted as a result of touching the ground
  • Easier to pick
We still wanted to have some purple and yellow beans.
We've found a yellow - Corona d'oro - and a purple - Cosse Violette - variety. As well as producing a variety if coloured beans these should also produce different coloured flowers.
Let's hope that they are as good as Cobra.

23 comments:

  1. The slugs got just about all my Cobra and Blue Lake, another green variety, last year but left the purple French beans and runner beans alone. This happened on two different plantings. I shall be giving them a go again this year.

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    1. Did you direct sow, Jo or plant them out,

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    2. I planted them out the first time and direct sowed the second.

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  2. I've been growing Cobra for the last three years and it's been very reliable. Because of the mice I sow in pots and then plant out. I should experiment with other varieties though.

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    1. I don't think that we would have much success direct sowing either Jessica

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  3. So I have converted you to Cobra then, Sue? I don't know how big you let the beans get, but one of the good aspects of Cobra is that even when the beans get huge (as they will if you leave them), they don't seem to go tough. Leaving them a bit longer would of course improve the yield in terms of weight. I agree with your comments about the support-systems too - the long row of pairs of canes works for me. I have used it all the time I have been growing Runners. I do occasionally use the tepee method for other types of bean - and then usually regret it! (Thanks for the link, by the way.)

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    1. You have indeed Mark. We don't let the beans grow very big,

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  4. Not sure what variety will be in my plant packs but I'm hoping for climbing beans. I know the purple variety did much better last year than the golden one.

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    1. I'm hoping the coloured climbers are as good as Cobra, Jo

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  5. In 2014 we just used the teepee style for our climbing beans (Mayflower and Lazy Housewife). The tent style looks really interesting and think I'll give it a try. The Japanese beetles were so bad last year! They love to destroy climbers, but will leave bush alone.

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    1. We don;t have Japanese beetle, Juliet so I looked it up. It eats just about everything doesn't it? I hope that it diesn't manage to make its way over here

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  6. So interesting! Different color both of flower and the beans. I want to runner bean once more. But I have not found the seed seller. I got lucky to find runner bean vine several months ago, although just two seeds. But I was not lucky on growing it.

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    1. I hope that you succeed next time Endah.

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  7. The slugs have had all my beans for the last two years now, so I am not going to plant them this year! Defeated.

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    1. Can you grow some on in pots until they are if a size that may cope with the slugs Deborah?

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  8. Total French bean failure here last year. I had short plants and the slugs ate them all up. I think I had about six beans in all. I like the idea of climbing plants and I prefer the long tent like support arrangement as well, the teepees never work very well at the top do they. I have a very old packet of Cobra seeds in my shoe box, I wonder if they're still viable.

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    1. Try growing some in a jam jar, CJ as we used to do at school to test viability. Stuff a jam jar with kitchen towel and push one or two beans down the sides so that you can see them through the glass. Keep the kitchen towel damp and see whether they shoot. You could give the boys it as a competition to see who had the bean to shoot first.

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  9. My Sister in Law (who is not native to our country) was just asking me the other day if I knew how to grow beans and for advice. I will show her this post and she will I'm sure find it extremely useful. So thank you on her behalf Sue.
    I had advised her to grow wigwam style but will now suggests she changes to the alternative method you show. Their garden can get a bit windy.

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    1. Your sister in law may find this ti he helpful, Angie. Click here I produced a set of growing guides for use in schools, There are guide for other veg too. At the bottom of this page are links to other areas, Also I should have put a cane along each side of each tent and tied in the canes ti them as thus would have added a bit more stability

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  10. It good to see all those different varieties of beans, especially the black ones. I must say I love the flowers as much as the fruit though....they are decorative in their own right. As always your harvests take my breath away, my broad beans are quite large at present, it must be the mild weather we had earlier in the year.xxx

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    1. We haven't sown our broad beans yet, Dina. Don't they have lovely flowers with a beautiful perfume?

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  11. I have invented this slug prevention method and found it virtually foolproof and organic. Collect branches from blackberry bushes when dead or nearly dead and chop into pieces about 3 cm long - a good job for the winter. Put these around plants when planting out and the the slugs will not go over them - much more effective than egg shells. Fresh green branches are not so prickly so don't use those. Any leaves on the branches will rot down as will the left overs another year. If using in a plant pot longer peices can be cut and individually arranged around the plant .

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    1. Interesting. Jo our blackberry is thornless but we have a very thorny tayberry that needs pruning which would serve the same purpose. I wonder whether rose prunings would work too?
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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