Beans: profile, care, companion plants & pests
Beans are easy to grow and care for and are a must-have in every garden. Taking up little space, they can produce a bountiful and delicious harvest, whether grown in the ground or in containers.
Keep reading to find out how to grow the most popular garden beans, from watering to pinching out and how to protect your precious crop from the usual garden pests, so they do not eat them before you do.
Beans: origin and characteristics
Widely grown from allotments to balconies and usually classed as vegetables, beans are botanically classified as legumes and belong to the Fabaceae family. Members of the legume family, which also includes peas (Pisum sativum), are mainly grown for human consumption as well as for animal feed. Legumes also have their own category when it comes to planning crop rotations. There are many different types of beans available to grow, ranging from the popular and easy-to-grow annual French or common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) and broad bean (Vicia faba) to the slightly more exotic edamame or soya bean (Glycine max), which requires a little more care.
Beans originate from the Americas, and the common bean was introduced to Europe in the 16th century and bred extensively to produce the many cultivars available today. Beans are a staple crop of vegetable patches, with varieties ranging from dwarf or bush beans to climbing habits. Luckily, there are also bean varieties suitable for even the smallest space and patio. Beans are not only nutritious and flavoursome but can be ornamental, as the bean’s pollinator-friendly flowers range from red to white and the pods are produced in an array of colours from green to purple. Bean leaves can be heart-shaped or sword-like and tend to be green or grey depending on the variety.
Bean plant care
Growing your own beans is not too challenging and you should get a good crop as long as they receive enough light, water and nutrients.
Watering bean plants
Watering beans regularly is essential, as beans are thirsty plants, especially when they are flowering and setting pods. Regular and thorough watering is required to keep the soil moist. It is especially important to keep an eye on beans in pots or containers, as they can dry out more quickly.
A mulch of well-rotted manure or garden compost, such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, applied at the beginning of summer is a great way of helping conserve moisture and will help suppress weeds as well.
How to prune beans
If you are wondering how to prune beans, then fear not, as beans do not need pruning as such, but pinching out the tops of the plant can be beneficial at the right time. When growing climbing beans, once the plant has reached the desired height or the top of the support, the tip can be removed to prevent it from growing taller and to encourage side growth.
If you are growing broad beans, again the growing tips can be pinched out when the first pods at the base of the plant are setting to encourage larger pods and deter black fly, which love the tender top bean growth.
- Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
- For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
- Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
Beans do not generally need to be fed whilst growing, as they are relatively light feeders and are grown as an annual. New compost at the time of planting your beans and a mulch will usually provide all the nutrients they require for the growing season.
Common pests and diseases
The most common bean plant pests and diseases include:
- Slugs and snails: can destroy young bean plants, so it is best to protect them. Measures to prevent slug and snail damage can include planting out when the beans are larger and stronger, laying barriers of eggshells, copper tape or wool pellets around the plants and attracting predatory frogs, birds and hedgehogs and even picking them off by hand at night.
- Birds: some birds, particularly pigeons, have a real taste for bean plants, especially their foliage. To deter birds, scarecrows or tinfoil freely tied around the plants can have some effect, although for fool proof protection the only answer is netting the plants.
- Aphids (Aphodoidea): sap-sucking aphids or black fly, especially the black bean aphid (Aphis fabae), can cause a real problem and stunt the bean’s growth if left to get out of control. Pinching the tips out of broad beans is often beneficial. If found on French and runner beans, they can be squished by hand or sprayed away using a hose. If a large infestation has occurred, then organic sprays containing fatty acids or plant oils are an option; however, these may need frequent applications to be effective.
Beans are a great vegetable to grow at home and, if sown successionally, can produce beans to harvest for weeks on end. For more information on other types of beans to grow at home, check out our other article.