Growing Beans in Glasgow

Paul, who works for Urban Roots gardening at the Moogety Garden in Elderpark, spoke to Thalia from our Bean Team about his experience growing beans in Glasgow.

Paul standing in front of the Moogety Garden Sign
What type of beans have you previously grown in the Moogety Garden? 

Well, we’ve done runner beans, broad beans, the frenchy type beans french beans, and dwarf beans, which are basically just where the plant is smaller so they’re good for growing in pots and containers cause it doesn’t shoot up. So basically that’s the types, and pea, which is not really a bean but they come together. 

So when have you had the best success planting them? 

So there’s a couple of strategies, and it all depends on your climate and where you’re situated. So broad beans for instance, you could plant some of them out in October/November and probably harvest them sort of end of May, beginning of July onwards. Normally living in Glasgow, undercover I could do them in the greenhouse late February or early March, start planting them out roundabout end of March, beginning of April or anytime in April. And that’ll produce your cropping area later on in the season, sort of July/August, and that’s when you’ll get your main crop.

So depending on how you’re doing the seedlings, are you growing them undercover or planting them straight into the ground. So anytime between February the beginning of May for sowing, and then for harvesting you’re going later in the year so July, August, and possibly even into September for harvesting. 

How would you rate them in terms of how easy they are to grow? If you’re a beginner are you likely to have a good rate of success? 

These are really good for beginners because they’re so simple. Anybody can do it. 

How much space do they take up in the garden?

So we rotate them in years as part of a normal plant rotation. These beds that I’ve got here are roughly 2m by 1m, so in that space I’d probably have about 15-18 plants. 

I would rotate them because beans, peas, and legumes are all part of the one family and they’re a nitrogen fixing plant so what they do is they take atmospheric nitrogen, produce a symbiotic bacteria, convert it into usable nitrogen that the plants can use. So that nitrogen builds up in the soil and the following year it’s good for your brassicas, your cabbages, brussel sprouts, cauliflowers and stuff like that. So I would rotate them like that so if beans were in one place one year, I’d put cabbages in the next year or something similar to cabbages.

Have you noticed any bean crops or any of those species that you were mentioning being more successful for growing in Glasgow? 

In my experience they’ve been doing really well, it disnae really matter. Depending on the year, how wet it gets because if it gets wet then they can get fungal attack, they can get attacked by insects and stuff like that. But generally speaking, beans have been really successful. 

When you have your successful crop what do you like to make, are there any bean dishes you really enjoy? 

Not particularly, I just add them to stuff. If I was doing a curry I’d add them to the curry, if I was doing a stir fry I’d do them in a stir fry, if I was having a Sunday roast I may have them as a side like you’d have carrots, just boil them up. Add them to everything, they’re great, full of energy, full of protein. 

Do you have any advice for people growing beans for the first time? 

A couple of things. Don’t plant them too close together, so when you’re putting your beans in, gie them about 6-7 inches, maybe even up to 9 inches apart, each individual bean, and the rows can be about a foot apart. 

Just when they start to flower, you’ll notice the flowers on the lower levels of the plant and it’ll grow really tall, once it starts to flower you start giving it a good bit of water. 

Another wee tip is see the very tip of the bean pod, the apical meristem, you cut that aff and that means energy gets transferred instead of into growth, into flowering because it cannae grow any higher. Or lateral meristems will be in growing flowers and producing energy towards the bean. They’re part of each other, the bean is the fertilised flower,.

That’s it really, pretty simple. 

Before I let Paul get on with his gardening for the day, we reflected on the old schoolyard rhyme about beans: 

Beans, beans are good for the heart

The more you eat, the more you fart

The more you fart, the better you feel

Beans, beans for every meal