What Are Peas and Beans?
Peas and beans are part of the legume family. They are great fun to grow, especially if you buy the different coloured varieties. This year I am growing green, purple and yellow French beans, red patterned Borlotti beans, and green and purple peas. I am not growing runner beans as I don’t particularly like them; ditto broad beans.
Peas and beans grow from the flower on the plant, so these need to be outdoors so that pollinating insects can find the flowers.
Peas and beans will need some sort of growing structure. There are lots of different ways that you can do this;
- A frame trestle
- Teepee (3 or 4 canes in a triangle or square, pinched together and tied at the top)
- Growing up a fence/trellis
- Making a fence/trellis using twine
- Growing up other plants such as sunflowers
This website has some great info with pics about making a runner bean frame. Runners grow very tall (more than 6ft if you let them) so need room to grow upwards.
In my garden I will be growing peas and beans up a fence with some Wilkos plastic mesh attached. On the allotment I tend to make teepees with canes and string.
If you are peas and beans growing up sunflowers, you need to wait for the sunflowers to be strong, tall and sturdy enough to support the weight of peas or beans on them too. Most sunflowers require some canes to help support the huge flower head, and a bean will wrap itself around the sunflower stem as it works its way up.
Some beans and peas are ‘dwarf’ variety, which means they will not grow very tall at all. If you are using short canes please remember to put something over any sharp edges or sticking-out ends – a garden cane to the face can be literally lethal.
If you are growing peas and beans up canes, sow one pea/bean at the bottom of each cane. If you are doing them in a row with a trellis or fence structure, sow them 10-15cm apart.
Beans and peas put out little graspers to help them clamber and they will tangle themselves up trying to grow, so try your best to keep them on track to their individual canes to prevent tangling.
Time to Sow, Sow, Sow!
This article was written pre-lockdown, so the best time to sow these crops is in late March or early April. You can sow peas and beans all through summer until end July. You can still sow peas and beans now for a late harvest. There are some winter pea varieties that can be sown in October or November for an early crop next year. We use ‘Meteor’ pea on our Green Gym sites.
- Bodge holes about 2cm deep and place a single bean or pea in each hole. It doesn’t matter which way up.
- Gently cover over the seeds by brushing the soil/compost over them, and gently press it down with the palm of your hand.
- Use a watering can with a rose (sprinkler) on the end and water the seeds.
- Put netting over them if necessary. Birds LOVE young pea and bean shoots, and all of our peas at Selly Oak Green Gym were consumed by a little mousey friend (who had chewed through the protective netting!)
Some beans attract blackfly. A great way to combat this is to grow nasturtium in the same bed as the peas and beans, and the black fly will go to this plant instead. Make sure you wash the nasturtium carefully if you want to eat it in your salads!
Most peas and beans don’t overwinter, but you can still sow them in succession if you have space. I would sow them six weeks apart. Meteor peas can be sown in late autumn for an early spring crop.
Plants in the legume family fix nitrogen into the soil as nodules on their roots, so it is important to not plant them by other crops that don’t like a lot of nitrogen. Onions (onion, leek garlic) really don’t like nitrogen so plant these elsewhere.
Two runner bean plants will keep a family in runner beans for the rest of the year
French beans produce lots of bean so you’ll only need a small number of plants
Peas come in lots of varieties – but in my case none of them ever make it to the kitchen as I eat them straight off the plant. If this applies to you, you’ll need more plants!
Hints and Tips
Beans and peas are a great food to grow with children as the seeds are big enough to see and handle, which also makes it easy to get one in each hole.
If you have any questions, Laura is happy to answer them via email, Facebook or Twitter
Remember to share your pictures with us on Facebook and Twitter too!