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Phaseolus coccineus (runner), Phaseolus vulgaris (bush or climbing)

Sustainable Ewe favourites:

Roquefort Dwarf, Scarlet Runner, Top Crop, King of the Blues

Quick Reference

Optimum Soil Temperature 18-25°
Days to Germination 7-10 days
Days to Harvest 60-80 days (depending on variety)
Direct Sow or Transplant Direct
Distance Apart 15-20cm
Soil pH 6.0-7.5
Annual/Biennial /Perennial  Annual (some runner varieties perennial though grown as annual)


First cultivated  over 4000 years ago beans have been found in the tombs of kings in ancient Egypt and in archaeological sites in Peru.

First introduced into England from America in 16th century as an ornamental plant.  Beans were not used as a commercial food crop till 18th century

Native Americans taught the first colonists in the USA to grow beans with corn to the benefit of both plants.  This method is know as The Three sisters.

There are many varieties of beans, some of the common ones are:

Runner, or Pole beans – Phaseolus coccineus – requires a support to grow up such as a frame or trellis

French, Dwarf, Climbing or Bush beans – Phaseolus vulgaris – is a compact bush that does not require staking.  Kidney, Black, Cannellino and Pinto beans are part of this variety

Lima beans – Phaseolus lunatus – Can be either climbing or bush.


Bean like a free draining soil full of humus.  Plant 2-3 cm deep (first finger joint)  and protect from birds who just love to dig up the seeds and seedlings.  Grow in full sun in warm dry temperatures.  However too dry and the plants may not set flowers.  Beans will also fail to pollinate in windy conditions.

Compared with runner beans, the bush bean has a relatively short season however the more you pick the more they will produce.

Storing harvested Beans:  Can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. Blanch and freeze (excellent flavour).  Beans can be dried in their pods and then shelled and stored in an airtight container (excellent flavour).  Canned (good flavour)

Seed Saving:  Self pollinating, recommended 10 plants to maintain generic integrity.   And excellent plant for seed saving beginners.

Seed Life:  Four years


Pinching out the top of the plant, particularly with runner and climbing beans, will limit the height of the plant.

Fun Facts

Grown on all continents except Antarctica

Coffee, castor, cocoa, and soy are not beans.

Largest producers of beans Myanmar, India, and Brazil.

Beans are rich in fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, folate and iron.  However some beans, such as red and white kidney beans also contain toxins when they are raw.  This toxin lectin phytohaemagglutinin can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  It is removed by boiling the beans for at least 10 minutes at 100°C .

An excellent source of B vitamins and iron.

Beans contain only 2-3% fat

Said to reduce cholesterol

Beans also contain oligosaccharides (raffinose and stachyose) which result in flatulent causing gas.

In Sichuan (China) broad beans are mixed with soybeans and chilli peppers then fermented into a paste called doubanjiang.

In Dalmatia (Croatia) artichokes are stuffed with fava beans and peas

In Greece they stew artichokes and fava beans (still green in their pods)

Hoppin’ John is a dish made int he Southern united States made from black-eyed peas and rice.

In West Africa and the Caribbean akara is made by mixing mashed black-eyed peas, salt, onions, and peppers and then frying the mixture.

In East Asian adzuki bean is boiled with sugar and made into a sweet paste to be used in desserts.  Mung beans are cooked with coconut milk, sugar and ginger to make a porridge like dessert called es kacang hijau.  When the mung bean is made into a paste with ginger and salt it is breakfast.

Lima Beans and Corn cooked together are a dish known as Succotash.

Cannellino beans are used primarily in Minestrone.

Botanist Calvin Keeney (also known as “father of the stringless bean”) removed the string from the pod via selective breeding in the 1894


Rust – causes yellow spots on leaves and stems of the plant.  Generally in the cool, damp weather.  Remove infected plants and destroy

Antracnose – brown spots on leaves, leaf veins blackened.  Remove and destroy plants do not plant again in this spot for two years

Botrytis/grey mould – occurs mainly in wet seasons with poorly drained soils.  Remove dead leaves and affected parts.

Virus – cupping and twisting of leaves.  Destroy infected plants.  Some varieties are virus resistant.

Sclerotina – leaves, stems and pods develop soft rotting areas, white mould containing black specks will appear.  Remove weeds, improve drainage and spacing on plants.  Remove diseased plants.  Crop rotation is important.

Bacterial Blight – irregular shaped lesions with a ‘halo’.  Remove and burn disease plants.  Wind and rain can spread this disease.  Practice crop rotation.

Flowers not setting – too hot or windy.  Lack of moisture.  Excess nitrogen.  French bean varieties do better in warm climates.  Water regularly.

Poor growth/Failure to germinate – Soil too cold.  Wait till soil temp is 16°C


Looper Caterpillars or Shield Bug – will eat the leaves and leave the pods feeling rough.

Aphids – young tips deformed with clusters of tiny insects.  Keep the plants well watered in dry weather.

Slugs and Snails – protect the base of the plants to stop these critters nibbling on your plants.

Tomato Fruitworm – holes in pods

Springtails/Bean Aphid – failure of plants to emerge or weak and distorted leaves.  More common in the warmer weather such as late spring or early summer

Mites – mottled yellow leaves, fine webbing on the underside of leaved

Whitefly – tiny white insects that fly when plant is disturbed

Companion Planting

Cabbages, Carrots, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Marigold,  Lettuce, Marjoram, Parsley, Parsnip, Potato, Rosemary, Sage

NEVER Chives, Fennel, Garlic, Onions, Shallots