Horticulture Magazine

How To Support Climbing French Beans

french beans with orange flowers growing in pots against a support structure

French beans are popular crops to grow in UK gardens.

They can be relatively easy to grow, but choosing the right options and placing them in the right locations can be important.

Just as important is providing the climbing varieties with the means to grow vertically.

Imagery and video featured in this article was commissioned by Horticulture.co.uk in collaboration with Organic Gardener Emily Cupit.

Which French Beans Need Support?

orange flowers of climbing French Beans with white wall and large lawn in background

One thing to think about when choosing which French beans to grow is how much space you have available.

There are two main types of French bean that you might grow – dwarf beans, also known as bush beans, and pole beans, also called climbing beans.

foliage of green beans plant twisted around bamboo poles with large lawn in background

Bush beans are typically grown so that they support one another.

They are best grown in blocks rather than rows and when grown in this way, they won’t typically need additional support or staking.

close up of timber support structure and poles used to support Phaseolus vulgaris

However, sometimes it may be beneficial to place short twiggy sticks into the soil between the plants to keep them upright and make sure pods remain up off the ground.

Climbing beans, on the other hand, are much taller-growing plants, which do always require some kind of support or staking.

another view of the pole support system with home in the background

Thinking about the options for this upfront is important, since you should have supports in place before you direct sow or plant out your French beans.

Support For Dwarf / Bush Beans

Smaller and lower-growing bush beans or dwarf beans can be grown without any support at all.

However, this can lead to issues when plants flop, and pods touch the ground.

wigwam created from bamboo canes used in raised beds to grow French Beans

You can however eliminate the need to place additional supports by growing these types of French bean close together, in blocks, so that the plants support one another.

You can place the plants in grids, around 15cm apart from one another.

bamboo canes tied together with string and supporting green beans

Bush beans might also get a little support from companion plants, which provide structure to help keep plants upright and pods up off the ground.

But if you feel the need to place additional support, the solution is simple and typically free.

another view of green beans supported by a string structure

Simply take some natural twiggy branches from your garden or the surrounding area, and insert these in the soil between French bean plants (much as you might with peas) to give them a little additional support.

Support For Climbing / Pole French Beans

Phaseolus vulgaris supported by string and bamboo canes

Climbing or pole beans grow much taller, and do need a sturdy support system.

Traditionally, bamboo canes or natural straight branches from a garden are used to create a support structure.

garden greenhouse and raised beds with twine and bamboo in the foreground

These are often inserted into the ground in two rows, then joined higher up to make an A or an X shaped framework.

In smaller spaces, a wigwam shape of canes can be created, but joining a circle of canes together near the top.

Plants will climb up each cane or branch, and should be spaced around 15cm apart.

sideways view of green beans support structure

It can be beneficial to gently tie newly planted beans to the canes to get them started.

However, one interesting alternative to a man-made support structure for climbing beans is using other plants as support.

In the famous ‘three sisters’ companion planting scheme, beans are planted at the base of sweetcorn, and use the corn as a support.

foliage of Phaseolus vulgaris intertwined with string and bamboo canes

The beans provide nitrogen for the system, and the third sister, squash, protects the others and provides ground cover around the area to conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.

So thoughtful companion planting to provide support could be another option to consider.

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