Beans are one of our most versatile foods. Packed with protein and capable of being dried and stored, they have been a staple of human consumption for thousands of years.

Nutritious and delicious, they now form part of the diet of the growing number of people choosing a meat-free diet. And they are never tastier than when picked fresh and cooked within minutes.

As well as the traditional varieties that scramble up canes, dwarf varieties have now been developed to allow gardeners with limited space to enjoy their flavour. So whatever the size of your garden, there’s space for beans.

Broad Beans
Broad beans are one of the easiest crops to grow. They can be started off in a greenhouse or cold frame from February and can be sown outdoors from April onwards. They like a sheltered, sunny spot and soil that’s been enriched with plenty of organic material.

Sow them 7cm deep and in rows that are 20cm apart and from an early sowing they should be ready to pick this month.

Once the bottom truss of pods develop, pinch off the tips to deter blackfly.

If you don’t have space to grow them in the ground, then pick a dwarf variety such as ‘Robin Hood’, and grow in large containers, making sure that the pots are never allowed to dry out.

Broad beans can be cooked whole when immature and for shelling they should be picked while still young and sweet.

Scottish Gardener:

French Beans
French beans are a tender crop, which means that they can’t withstand frost. As a result they should be sown indoors in May and planted out after the last frost. Keep sowing them every three weeks until summer for a continuous supply and if late sowings are made outdoors, cover these with a cloche.

Once the plants start to grow, mulch round them with compost to help retain moisture.

Dwarf varieties don’t need to be staked, but only crop for a few weeks so repeat sowings are essential.

Scottish Gardener:

Runner Beans
Runner beans like a bit of heat, so early sowing should be made in a greenhouse or sunny windowsill. Like all beans, the seeds are big and like a long root run, so sow them in individual small pots and keep them moist. Harden them off before planting them outdoors.

Sow outdoors now into soil that’s been well-prepared. Create a framework of canes for them to climb and sow a late batch in July to keep picking until the first autumn frost.