Why beans are the perfect vege for newbie gardeners
Beans get my vote as the easiest vege to grow. They are a great crop for newbie gardeners – quick, prolific, delicious and scarcely troubled by pests and diseases (although slugs and snails will munch on the tender seedlings, so if you have problems with those pests, start beans in trays and transplant rather than sow direct). Otherwise find a spot in the garden with free-draining soil and moderate sunshine (beans don't like it too hot) and sow direct. They'll be up in as little as a week.
Which beans to grow? Dwarf beans, climbing beans, runner beans, drying beans – there's a bean for every job and I say plant as many sorts as you have room for! But if you only have space for one, I'd suggest 'Top Crop'. When we surveyed green-fingered experts to find the 100 best veges for Kiwi gardeners in NZ Gardener magazine a few years ago, this green dwarf bean came out tops. It's ridiculously productive and you'll be harvesting from January until the first frosts.
If you were force-fed stringy 'Scarlet Runner' beans as a kid, try 'Stringless Scarlet' (although the pods get a bit stringy if left on the vine too long). 'Stringless Scarlet' is an annual though, while true 'Scarlet Runner' is a perennial and will come up year after year. When you see the new shoots emerge, you know the soil is warm enough to sow all your other beans.
Sow beans successively, popping a few more in every fortnight from now until about mid-December, to ensure a steady supply.
Keep watering. If beans dry out over summer they get stressed and will stop producing. Heat-stressed beans are also be far more vulnerable to attack from various sap suckers, like green vege bugs and aphids.
Grow baked beans! Sow 'Lima del Papa' to grow your own beans for canning. They prefer warm conditions though so wait until November in cooler areas of the country.
- NZ Gardener