Beans in basket

How to Sow and Grow Beans

Beans are a versatile and nutritious addition to any garden, offering a bounty of delicious harvests throughout the growing season.  Many of them come in a range of gorgeous colours such as purple, red and yellow as well as the green varieties we know well. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner looking to try your hand at growing your own food, sowing beans in the UK can be a rewarding experience. In this growing guide, we’ll walk you through the process of sowing three popular types of beans: French beans, runner beans, and broad beans.

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Yellow French Beans on Black Plate, Raw String Beans Pile, Fresh Wax Bean Pods on Dark Stone Background

French Beans:

French beans, also known as green beans or string beans, thrive in the UK’s temperate climate. Here’s how to sow them:

  • Timing: French beans are sensitive to frost, so wait until all risk of frost has passed before sowing. In the UK, this typically means waiting until late spring or early summer, around May or June.  They can be started in pots or module trays in the greenhouse if you have a problem with mice (they sometimes eat the seed!) and alternatively can be directly sown in place from around May time.
  • Location: Choose a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil. 
  • Preparation: Prepare the soil by digging in plenty of organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve soil structure and fertility.  If you use the ‘no dig’ method your ground needs no preparation.
  • Sowing: Sow French bean seeds directly into the soil, spacing them about 15 cm apart in rows that are 45 cm apart. Plant the seeds to a depth of about 2.5cm and water well.
  • Care: Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and provide support for the plants as they grow. French beans can be prone to pests such as aphids, so keep an eye out for any signs of infestation and consider biological/natural pest controls such as ladybirds which can be bought online and delivered in the post.
Bean Czar 1

Runner Beans:

Runner beans are another popular choice for UK gardeners, known for their vigorous growth and prolific harvests. Here’s how to sow them:

  • Timing: Like French beans, runner beans are sensitive to frost and grow fast, so wait until all risk of frost has passed before sowing. In the UK, this is typically in late spring or early summer.
  • Location: Choose a sunny, sheltered spot in your garden with well-drained soil. 
  • Preparation: Prepare the soil as you would for French beans, by incorporating plenty of organic matter to improve fertility and structure.
  • Sowing: Sow runner bean seeds directly into the soil, either in rows or in blocks, spacing them about 20 cm apart. Plant the seeds to a depth of about 5 cm and water well.
  • Care: Like French beans, runner beans require regular watering and may benefit from support as they grow. Keep an eye out for pests such as aphids and slugs, and take appropriate action to protect your plants.
Broad Bean Autumn Light 1

Broad Beans:

Broad beans are a hardy and nutritious crop that thrives in the UK’s cooler climate. Here’s how to sow them:

  • Timing: Broad beans can be sown as early as late autumn or early spring, depending on your location and local climate. In the UK, they can be sown in late autumn for an early harvest the following year.
  • Location: Choose a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil. If sowing for overwinter growing to get ahead, they can be sown in post and kept in your greenhouse or polytunnel.  They can also be sown outside, but we find that they do better for a winter indoors!
  • Preparation: Prepare the soil as you would for other beans, incorporating plenty of organic matter to improve fertility.
  • Sowing: Sow broad bean seeds directly into the soil, spacing them about 15 cm apart in rows that are 45 cm apart. Plant the seeds to a depth of about 5 cm and water well.
  • Care: Broad beans are relatively low-maintenance once established but may benefit from support as they grow taller.  A criss cross mesh of sticks or twigs is plenty of support without needing something more formal. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and watch out for pests such as blackfly, which can be a common problem with broad beans but doesn’t damage the beans themselves.

Sowing beans in your garden or allotment can be a rewarding experience, whether you’re growing French beans, runner beans, or broad beans. By following these simple steps and providing the right care and attention, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of delicious and nutritious beans throughout the growing season. 

All bean types tend to produce a lot of beans but if you have too many, don’t perry, they can be placed in a sealed container or bag and will last up to a year in the freezer.

Happy growing!



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Video – How to Sow and Grow Beans