Growing Beans and Peas

Elegant flowers and a climbing habit make beans and peas ideal to grow in large containers in small gardens.

Pea Plant Tips

Pea Plant Tips

Photo by: DK - Simple Steps to Success: Fruits and Vegetables in Pots © 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Simple Steps to Success: Fruits and Vegetables in Pots , 2012 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Runner Beans

With their lush foliage and bright scarlet flowers, runner beans are ornamental plants that can climb to more than 8ft (2.4m) in height. They  are tender and need warmth to germinate, so for early crops sow indoors from mid-spring, or wait until late spring to sow into pots outside. Push the large seeds 2in (5cm) deep into the compost and allow 6in (15cm) between plants in their final positions. Choose a deep container, at least 18in (45cm) in diameter, and add sturdy supports about 6ft (1.8m) high for the plants to grow up. Beans flourish in a sunny, sheltered site. In more exposed gardens, grow dwarf cultivars, such as ‘Hestia,’ that need no supports. 

How to Plant

  1. To get runner beans off to an early start, from mid- to late spring plant single seeds about 2in (5cm) deep in small pots filled with multipurpose compost. Water well, and keep indoors or in a heated greenhouse to germinate. 
  2. Gradually acclimatize plants to outdoor conditions and plant out once the risk of frost has passed. Fill a large, deep container with compost and push tall stakes into the pot, tying them together securely with twine.
  3. Water the beans well, knock each from its pot, and place in holes made at the base of the stakes. Fill around the roots, firm the compost, and water in well. Tie each bean to its stake to help it to start climbing.

Aftercare and Harvesting 

Runner beans need plenty of moisture to produce a good crop, so never allow pots to dry out. Tie young plants to their supports, and feed weekly with a tomato fertilizer when the flowers appear. Pick beans when young to encourage more crops to form. 

Green Beans

Vigorous plants that crop reliably and prolifically, green beans are available as climbing and dwarf cultivars. Both types do well in containers, but neither tolerate frost and need warmth to germinate. Sow seed 2in (5cm) deep in small pots indoors in mid-spring, or in their final containers outside from late spring to early summer. Provide plants with a deep container at least 18in (45cm) in diameter and up to 8in (20cm) between plants for the highest yields. Remember to acclimatize young plants to outdoor conditions before planting them out and choose a sheltered site in full sun. Supports at least 6ft (1.8m) high are required for climbing cultivars, while bushy dwarf types need no support but sometimes also require propping up with sticks when laden with beans. 

Aftercare and Harvesting 

After planting, attach young plants to their supports. Keep the compost consistently moist, and feed plants weekly with a tomato fertilizer when the flowers appear. Pinch out the growing tips of climbing beans when they reach the top of their supports to prevent a top-heavy tangle and to encourage a larger yield. Pick beans when young for the tenderest pods and to keep plants productive, or shell more mature pods for delicious green flageolet beans.

Peas and Pods 

Delicious when eaten fresh, peas are easy to grow and productive. Grow shelling types for green peas, or try snow pea and sugarsnap cultivars that have edible pods. Early peas mature faster and are dwarf, requiring less staking; tall maincrop cultivars take longer to crop but produce higher yields. Sow early types outdoors in early spring, or late winter in mild areas, then sow all other types in small batches every two weeks from mid-spring until early summer. Plant seeds 1in (2.5cm) deep, at least 2in (5cm) apart, in a deep pot with a minimum diameter of 12in (30cm), and place in a sunny, open site. 

Aftercare and Harvesting 

Protect seeds and seedlings from attacks by birds with netting, and set traps for mice. Plants also require light support with twiggy pea sticks or netting. Water pots consistently and feed weekly with a tomato fertilizer when the flowers appear. Pick pods while young for the best flavor and to encourage further crops.

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