Grow Your Own Beans With Help From Plot 37

Jessie Sheffield from the London-based allotment reveals key cultivating tips for beans and tells us why she's smitten with giant Greek Gigantes.

by Phillip Mlynar
PHOTO: Plot 37

If, lately, you’ve decided to grow your own beans, you might want to take a look at Jessie Sheffield’s Plot 37 venture for some inspiration.

Based in South-West London, Sheffield and her mom tend over an allotment garden—akin to a community garden system. The garden produces a bounty of seasonal produce, including a vibrant range of beans.

Sheffield, who was formerly a professional gardener and garden designer for 10 years, says she originally started documenting the allotment’s contents on Instagram “purely as a way of keeping track of what was happening season to season.” That way, she could look back and discover “where the brassicas were planted out, how well the lettuce grew in [a particular] bed, when the first asparagus appeared each year.”

We spoke to Sheffield about how you can get into growing your own beans and why she loves some of her favorite varieties. We also touch on tactics for harvesting beans.

What You Need to Grow Summer Beans

When it comes to getting started growing summer beans, Sheffield says you really don’t need too much in the way of equipment.

“If you are starting your beans off indoors, you will need some potting compost and a sowing tray that has a bit of depth to it,” she explains. “Beans and peas all have quite deep roots. And they need a bit of soil depth to grow well, but they are just as successful directly sown into the ground or a large pot where they will stay all season.”

Sheffield advises to “bury them double the height of the seed itself and watch out for mice if you start them off early, because they love them and are a bit short on food at that time of year!”

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Consider Growing Climbing Beans

If you’re blessed with enough space, Sheffield recommends you grow your own climbing beans.

“I always choose climbing varieties but they do require a structure to grow up,” she says. “This can be a simple wigwam made from bamboo canes or something more elaborate. I grow them up over arches that span the paths on my plot to save space.”

Climbing beans also “look fantastic, as bean flowers are really very pretty.” Sheffield adds that another advantage of climbing beans is the way they hang down for easier picking.

What Type Of Beans Should You Grow?

There’s a sizable range of bean varieties you could consider starting off with.

“Beans are generally an easy crop unless you try some of the super long Asian beans,” says Sheffield when asked if she recommends any specific bean to begin with.

“But with regards to the common bean, there’s plenty of variety. And no one is any easier [to grow] than the others really. If you can only grow one bean, I would choose a fresh eating variety over the dried because you get so much more from them.”

Beginner Bean Growing Tips

“Generally, beans like a good amount of water and the leaves can suffer from harsh wind. So plant them somewhere sunny and sheltered,” says Sheffield.

She adds that aphids can also become an issue. If aphids attack your beans, try using diluted dish detergent or linseed oil in a spray bottle to ward them off.

Mastering Harvest Time

Beans are relatively easy to harvest. For fresh beans, Sheffield says “the only struggle is to keep up with the picking. If you let pods get too big on the plants, they will stop producing so you have to harvest them as they come.”

When it comes to dried beans, it’s a case of “simply letting them get on with it over the summer and leaving the pods to dry on the plants.”

After that, once they become papery and brown, Sheffield says “just nip them off and the dried beans will fall out.” At that point, you can store them in glass jars or freeze until the winter.

Check out these methods for threshing harvested beans.

Eye-Catching Bean Varieties

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Aren’t they beautiful? Today (in the new coir mix) I’ve put in 4 of the bean varieties we’re doing this year… three of which we grow every year because they are fantabulous – Greek Gigantese (from @realseeds ), classic Borlotto (saved seed) and Violetto purple french (from @franchiseedsofitaly ). The new one for this year is a green french called ‘Taiwan’ that was given to us by @heritageseedlibrary . Runnerbeans will go in a bit later. . I also really want to try a yellow climbing french but can’t make my mind up on which one. Anyone grown a particularly good one? #answersonapostcard . . #borlotti #greekgigantes #taiwanbean #frenchbeans #purpleveg #beautifulseeds #sowingseed #allotment #allotmentlove #allotmentlife #grow #growyourown #gyo #homegrown #vegetablegarden #girlsthatgarden #theediblegarden #digforvictory #thegoodlife #kitchengarden #organicgarden #vegpatch #homegrown #sustainable #gardenersofinstagram #londonallotment #growtoeat #growsomethinggreen

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When it comes to her personal favorite beans, Sheffield has a collection of four that she makes sure to grow every year.

First up, there’s Trionfo Violetto, a climbing bean that she says is “a gorgeous plant in its own right” that has “dark green glossy leaves” and flowers that are a “deep beautiful purple.”

Next, there are Borlotti Lamon beans. “The pods are splattered with red and the beans are a beautiful maroon and white speckle. They dry really well and can be stored for use all winter.”

Sheffield also grows a “completely stringless” variety of runner beans called Polestar. These beans are known for their lime-green leaves and bright orange flowers.

Finally, Greek Gigantes are “a spectacular drying bean” that grow to a wonderfully huge size. “They have pale lemon-white flowers,” she says. “They can get quite heavy because of the hearty pods!”

Follow Plot 37 at Instagram.

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