Beans for drying

With beans grown for drying, the pods are allowed to fully ripen and dry out on the plant, then the beans can be stored for use over winter in stews, soups and casseroles. Borlotti beans are a popular choice, either dwarf or climbers, and some runner and French beans can also be grown this way.

Jobs to do now

  • Water regularly
  • Harvest mature pods

Month by month

Sow

Because beans take longer to mature fully, it is essential, especially in northern regions, to sow them early, ideally indoors.

Sow in April into modules or pots in a greenhouse or indoors. Sowing in May should also be fine in warmer parts of the UK.

Plant out once there is no danger of frost in your region, after gradually acclimatising the young plants to outdoor conditions (hardening off).

Alternatively, sow outdoors once the soil temperature is above 10°C (50°F) – warm the soil with clear polythene or cloches if necessary beforehand.

Choose a warm, open, sunny site, ideally on light, free-draining soil that contains plenty of organic matter, such as garden compost. Also add a high potassium general fertiliser, such as Vitax Q4, at a rate of two handfuls per square metre/yard before sowing or planting.

If growing climbing beans, put the support system in place first. A popular choice is a double row of inward-sloping 2.4m (8ft) tall bamboo canes, spaced 15cm (6in) apart and tied near their tops to a horizontal cane, like an A-frame. Alternatively, a wigwam of canes, spaced 15cm (6in) apart, is ideal for smaller spaces. Sow one or two seeds, 5cm deep, at the base of each cane. 

If growing dwarf or bush varieties, sow seeds 5cm (2in) deep, 10cm (4in) apart, in rows 45cm (18in) apart. Sow a few extra at the end of the rows to fill any gaps if some seeds don’t germinate. You can also sow these through weed-suppressing membrane to reduce the need for weeding and prevent the pods being damaged by contact with the soil.

Grow

Weed and water plants regularly. Lay a mulch of garden compost around the plants to help hold in moisture and deter weed germination. 

Climbing varieties may need tying in to their supports initially, until they start to twine naturally.

With dwarf or bush varieties, you can insert short twiggy sticks along the row to help keep the pods off the soil.

Harvesting

Beans start to mature from July onwards, from early sowings. 

When ready to harvest, the pods become dry, shrivelled and brittle. Avoid picking after rain, so the beans are as dry as possible.

Remove the beans from the pods and lay them on a tray in a warm place to fully dry out and turn hard. Then store in airtight jars and use in casseroles, soups and stews.

Harvest the last of your crop before the first frost. If any pods aren’t fully mature, then pick, shell and freeze the almost-mature beans, for use as you would dried ones.

Recommended Varieties

Common problems

Slugs and snails
Slugs and snails

These feed on the young seedlings and you'll see the tell tale slime trail on the soil around your crop, as well as on the leaves.

Remedy

There are many ways to control slugs and snails, including beer traps, sawdust or eggshell barriers, copper tape and biocontrols.

Aphids
Aphids

Look for colonies of greenfly on the soft shoot tips of plants or on leaves. They suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew, encouraging the growth of black sooty moulds.

Remedy

Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies or use biological control in the greenhouse.

Get involved

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