These were certainly known to the Ancient Egyptians and are probably natives of northern and western Asia. They are extremely hardy.
Cultivation A good rich loam suits these beans, though they are not difficult to grow on any soil. This crop may well follow cabbages and potatoes, or manure may be dug in sparingly. A certain amount of chemical fertilizer may be added as follows: 84g (3oz) per sq m (sq yd) of superphosphate and 28g (1oz) per sq m (sq yd) of sulphate of potash. These beans prefer a neutral or alkaline soil to one which is acid.
In January or February seed may be sown in boxes or individual pots and started under glass. In April the young plants are set out and the crop becomes mature in June. Another method is to plant outdoors in April for the maid summer crop or a May sowing becomes ready in September. At onetime autumn sowing was popular, but a number of bad winters in succession has made this method unpopular.
In sowing, the seeds are spaced at 16cm (6in) intervals in rows 60cm (2ft) apart. The beans may be put 4cm (1in) deep or, on clay soil, be placed on the surface and soil ridged up to cover them. When the first bean pods are showing the tip of the main shoot should be broken off and removed.
Named kinds include: ‘Green Windsor’, ‘Saville Longpod’, ‘Early Longpod’, ‘Masterpiece’, ‘Green Longpod’, ‘Bun-yard’s Exhibition’ and ‘Harlington White.’
Haricot beans and French beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) The difference between the French bean and the haricot bean is merely that in the former the pod containing immature seeds is eaten, while the haricots are the ripe seeds without the pods. The details of cultivation are the same for both French and haricot forms of the bean.
The runner bean is more often grown than the French, on the continent the reverse is true. It is not always known that a climbing form of the French bean is available though the dwarf kind is certainly more popular and has some advantages.
Cultivation Soil should be rich and light and well dug, with a dusting of superphosphate of lime at 84g (3oz) per sq m (sq yd) and manure at the rate of 50kg to each 8 sq m (8 sq yd). For early crops seeds may be sown in boxes during April and started under glass to be hardened off and planted out in May. Outdoors it is unwise to sow before the plant and overwinter it, nothing is gained. Those who use the railways running into London will, in late summer, have noted in almost all the suburban backyards abutting upon the line thriving plants of the beloved scarlet runner, and it is notable that this is often the only vegetable grown. All of which speaks eloquently of the merits of this most popular amateur’s plant. Cultivation It would be most unwise to plant runner beans before May as they will not take the least frost. Should an early crop be required the same method end of April.
The secret of a good crop of succulent beans is speedy raising without check. Water freely and mulch if dry weather occurs. It is essential with this bean to begin picking while the beans are still tender and not more than 10cm (4in) long. It seems a trait to produce the heaviest crop of the largest vegetables, and this is why the best qualities of flavor and texture are sometimes lacking from our vegetables.
The outdoor beans should be spaced 16cm (6in) apart in drills 2.5cm (1 in) deep, 45cm (18in) apart.
At the end of the season the plants may well be allowed to ripen their remaining seeds as these when shelled and dried are really the haricots of commerce. They may be used as seed for next year’s crop, but as long as they are kept dry they may be kept for over a year for use in cookery.
French beans may be forced under glass to have them at a time when they are unobtainable in the shops. From a January sowing under glass with a maintained temperature of 60°F (16°C) beans may be had by May. Early March sowings give beans in June. Soil should be as for tomato culture and an even temperature and state of moisture must be maintained throughout.
Named kinds include: ‘Brown Dutch’, `Canadian Wonder’, ‘Cherokee’, ‘Fin de Bagnols’, ‘Masterpiece’ and ‘Black Prince’.
Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) This plant is a native of tropical America, and when first introduced into Britain it was grown for the beauty of its bright scarlet blossoms. It is actually a tender perennial, but is commonly grown as an annual; though it is possible to take a may be used as advised for the french bean and sow the seed in boxes under glass. It is not necessary to sow these seeds before April since they may not be put out before late May or the beginning of June.
The method of planting for those plants which will be staked is that of two double rows 25cm (loin) apart
separated by a space of at least 1.6m (5ft). It is in this central area that the strong supports must be placed. The individual seeds must be placed at 20cm (8in) intervals.
The poles or stakes should be quite 2.6m (8ft) long and should be connected by a strong horizontal structure firmly
lashed to the uprights. The rest of the framework is merely a net or an arrangement of strings. The weight of a row of
runner beans in full growth is considerable and they present a large surface to be shaken by the wind. To avoid all this scaffolding it is quite possible to convert the plants into shrubby masses by a routine of pinching out the growing shoots. However, when this plan is adopted the individual seeds must be spaced at 60cm (2ft) intervals, with a distance of 1m (3ft) between the rows. Naturally a given number of plants will occupy considerably more ground space under these conditions.
When runner beans are in full production pick them frequently. As with French beans, they should be picked when they are young and tender.
Named kinds include: ‘Best of All’, `Giraffe’, ‘Kentucky Wonder’, ‘Painted Lady’, ‘Prizewinner’, ‘Streamline’ and ‘Princeps’.