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How to Grow French beans in Containers (Dwarf and Climbing)

Written by Sarah Talbot

French beans

It is easy to grow French beans from seed and they are delicious. The tender beans come in a variety of colours – as well as the usual green - so are a fun crop to grow with children. And as they are stringless the children might even eat them too! 

There are dwarf bean varieties, as well as climbing bean varieties – both are ideal in small spaces and gardening on a balcony or patio. They will thive in a warm, sheltered, sunny position.

And the best part is that they only take around 8-10 weeks from sowing to eating. So you can plant any time from early Spring (with plant protection) to late Summer/ early Autumn.    

Climbing Beans or Dwarf Beans?

Youn French Bean plant

If you have the space it would be good to grow both as this will start your supply of beans sooner and keep it going until the end of summer.  

Dwarf French Beans

Dwarf beans are quick to grow, but only crop for a few weeks, so it is best to sow little and often to avoid having a glut of beans ripening all at exactly the same time. 

Climbing Beans

Climbing beans take longer to produce beans, but carry on providing beans from mid-summer to early autumn if picked regularly.

How to Choose a Planter for Dwarf Beans

Garden Planters for French beans

Dwarf beans need a planter with a minimum of 25-30cm (10-12") deep and 30–45cm (12–18") wide.  So depending on the space you have and the number of plants you want to grow here are 3 choices.

Multipurpose Growbag gardne planter for container gardening and growing French beans from seed3 pack of Patio Vegetable planters both the Shallow and the Medium are suitable for dwarf beans.  You will get 4 plants in the Shallow and 3 to 4 plants in the Medium.

Multipurpose Growbag planter will take 2 rows of 3 to 4 – so 6 to 8 plants

Instant Raised Bed will take 9 to 12 plants. 

    Planters for Climbing beans

    Haxnicks Pea and Bean Patio garden planter for gowing French beans from seed

    Climbing beans need a deeper planter 60cm (24") wide and 30-45cm (12-18") and a support to climb up.  The Pea & Bean Planter is specially designed with pockets for tall bamboo canes to slot into. 
    This makes supporting your beans super easy. 

    How to Sow French Beans 

    Whether you are growing dwarf or climbing beans start sowing indoors in late April to early May. You can sow the seed directly into your container but there are two reasons not to do this.

    1) there is a chance that not all of your seeds will germinate so you will be left woith gaps in your planters and

    2) the young seedlings will need protection at first so you will need somewhere to keep the planters until risk of frost has passed.

    for these reasons the best thing to do is to plant the beans into Deep Rootrainers - these are particularly good for beans as they do not like root disturbance.  

    Sowing beans in Rootrainers

    French beans growing in Rootrainer root trainer plant cells

    Sow one seed in each Rootrainer cell 5cm (2in) deep (remembering to make several sowings of small batches a few weeks apart, to provide harvests over a longer period.) 

    Cover with the lid of the Rootrainer to provide a humid, warmer atmosphere. Place on a warm, sunny windowsill to germinate. Water regularly by taking off the lid and placing it under the plants then watering gently.  After 30 minutes remove the tray from underneath and tip away any remaining water.  Rinse off any soil and place the lid back over the seedlings. They should start to sprout within 10 to 15 days. 

    Sowing Beans direct into Containers

    Skip this if you are growind dwarf beans but if you are sowing climbing beans direct then prepare your plant supports before sowing.  If you are using the Pea & Bean planter then just slot the canes into the pockets and create and X-Frame (see below) or a wigwam of 1.8m (6ft) canes to support them. 

    For both climbing and dwarf - then sow seeds direct into the container, spacing them 15cm (6in) apart.

    Supporting Climbing Beans

    One of the best ways to support climbing beans is by creating an X-Frame.  Take your canes and slope them toward each other so they cross in the middle. Bind the centre with Soft Tie and add a horizontal cane to link them all together and increase stability. This will provide a sturdy support and allow for easier picking. 

    How to Harden Off Bean Plants

    In late May or early June, you will need to harden off your seedlings.  This is the process of gradually acclimatising plants to outdoor conditions to toughen them up and help them cope with the temperature fluctuations outside. 

    Place the Rootrainers outside in a sheltered spot during the day then bring indoors at night for a couple of weeks. Or put them inside a coldframe, opening the lid during the day.

    Transplanting Bean Seedlings

    Once your bean seedlings have been hardened off they can be planted into your container. 

    Start by adding good quality compost to your planter and dig a deep hole ready for each bean plant.  Open the Rootrainer and gently move the seedling into the prepared hole.  Water well then place the container in a sheltered sunny spot. Seedlings may need some protection like fleece at night. Once the plants reach 8cm (3") tall and all risk of frost has passed then you can relax.

    If you are growing climbing beans then take some Soft Tie and loosely tie young plants to the canes to get them started.

    Dwarf beans don't need the support but you can insert short twiggy sticks between the plants to keep them upright and keep the pods off the soil.

    Weeding and Watering Beans

    Keep the area around the plants weed free to ensure they do not have to compete for water, light and nutrients.  Particularly important when the plants are young and getting established.

    Watering beans is essential to get a good crop especially when they start to flower and form pods.  Beans are very thirsty plants!  This is especailly important for beans in containers which can dry out quicker than plants in the ground.  If we have a particularly hot spell then you may find that putting a mulch around the base of the plants will help reduce water loss.  Anything like bark, gravel, or well rotted compost woudl do the job.

    Harvesting Beans

    Harvest French beans from mid-summer to early autumn. If picked regularly, dwarf French bean plants will crop for several weeks and climbing French beans for much longer.

    Begin picking the pods when they’re 10cm (4in) long. They are ready when they snap easily and before the beans can be seen through the pod.

    If you miss a bean pod or two and see that the beans have started to swell then leave this to dry on the plant to use to start off next years crop. 



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