Jack and the Beanstalk time…

Summer is a great time to grow your own beans. Legendary tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk made beans one of the most loved vegetables grown by children. This summer, learn how to grow your own beans.

Choose a level area where beans will receive at least five hours of sun a day. Prepare the ground by forking over the bed, removing weeds and stones and breaking up any lumps. Add half a bag of compost and a handful of a general fertiliser per square metre, rake the surface as evenly as possible, and water well the day before planting.

There are two types of beans commonly grown in the home garden, bush beans and runner beans.

For bush beans, mark rows for bush beans with stretched string, then make a furrow on this line. Sow seeds 2cm deep and 5-8cm apart, allowing 60cm between rows. Mulch between rows to conserve water – and reduce weeds. On hot days, prevent vegetables from wilting by watering early in the morning, and if necessary, again in the late afternoon.

Beans mature quickly and are ready to harvest 8 to 10 weeks after planting. Sow at regular intervals to prolong the harvest. Popular varieties are ‘Star’, ‘Contender’, ‘Imbali’ (a South African bred bean, resistant to rust and mosaic virus) and ‘Timbavoti’ that bears prolifically.

The advantage of growing runner beans is that they take up less space than bush varieties making them suitable for small gardens, and are easier to harvest. They have a longer productive season than bush beans, producing pods in 65 to 85 days.

They can grow 2m tall, so will need support in the form of a fence or wigwam. Pick while young as this also extends the season. ‘Lazy Housewife’ has medium green slightly flattened pods with good flavour; ‘Witsa’ has oval to round shaped pods. For more information, go to www.lifeisagarden.co.za