Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Climbing Beans - progress, and a surprise

The Broad Beans are long since gone, and it is climbing bean season now. We have already had the first couple of batches of Runner Beans, but the beans were not prime examples of their kind. I'm hoping for better. I often find that the first few pods of the year are small and very curved, and that the first few clusters of flowers only set one or two pods. The trouble is, I would normally expect to have passed that stage before August arrives. What I want is masses of long straight pods, like this:

What a shame there's presently only that one!

I'm not saying that my Runner Beans are no good; only that they are not yet up to the standard I expect. They are just OK. Look at these - small; not straight; covered in blackfly, and too few.

There seem to be plenty more little pods forming, so maybe things will improve later. This cluster looks promising, with almost every flower setting a pod.

Exactly what determines whether a flower sets a pod is open to question. Bees play a part, but Runners are to some extent self-pollinating. Weather is also a factor, as is the level of moisture in the soil. This year we have had a lot of cold, dry weather, with strong (desiccating) winds. I have had to water the beans with the hosepipe very frequently.

The "Kew Blue" climbing French Beans (Pole beans to those of you in the USA) are looking OK, and there are plenty of pods developing.

In these photos the pods look quite big, but in reality they are not - yet. The trouble is that since I have not grown this variety before I don't know how big I can let them grow before they go stringy. I'll just have to experiment.

When they are very small, the pods are green, but as the grow they turn purple, not really blue. The immature ones are quite blotchy - almost as if they have been badly painted!

I have four plants of this variety, so hopefully between them they will produce a viable quantity of beans.

And now for the surprise... The "Kentucky Wonder" beans are not "Kentucky Wonder" at all. That variety produces green pods, but mine are yellow:

My plants (again I have four) have been grown from seeds sent to me by a friend. They were in a small plastic bag, clearly labelled "Kentucky Wonder", so you know what I was expecting. In retrospect I could have done earlier the research I have done today, which reveals that the seeds of "Kentucky Wonder" are light brown, whereas these ones are a very dark chocolate colour. I'm only mildly upset by the mix-up (clearly a labelling error), because they look as if they will be nice enough beans. However, I had intended them to replace my trusty "Cobra" beans this year, and this means that I will now have no green French beans at all.

A mix of my 3 types

Since I have no idea what variety the yellow beans are I will have to experiment with them too. I have in the past grown "Meriviglia di Venezia" beans which were yellow, but those were big and flat, whereas the current ones are cylindrical and look as if they are a variety like "Berggold" or "Cherokee Wax". Anyway, thinking positively, I should be able to produce some good-looking meals with green, yellow and purple beans! (Though the purple ones will probably turn green when cooked, as most do).


  1. Sadly, I think all purple beans turn green when cooked. They do look absolutely lovely on the plants though, especially with the vibrant purple flowers as well.

  2. Mine are flowering very poorly, but I hope for the better once the daily temperatures drop below 30°C. Last year I picked them up in late September!

  3. Blackfly seems to be quite a scourge in your garden, though I remember that they loved the runner beans in my garden when I grew them a couple of years ago. They always show up in my broadbeans too, but rarely become much of a problem.

    Love those Kew Blue beans, they look just like the simply named Purple pole beans that I'm growing this year. There is a Kentucky Wonder Wax bean that is yellow, perhaps that is what your friend sent you.

  4. Mine have been very slow climbers, and are only just flowering. Last night my mother brought me round a bag of them from her garden, which was almost as annoying! Pre-veg patch I'd have been delighted but there's something about tasting your own first runner bean of the season... Or any other vegetable for that matter. I hold off buying strawberries for the same reason.

  5. I've just picked my first yellow Romano beans from a new variety I'm growing this year (Gold Marie) and quite a few are not perfectly shaped in that a section of the bean is either pinched or underdeveloped. I'm wondering if inadequate pollination would be the cause. Like you, I'm hoping that this is not an issue for the entire harvest, but only the first flush of beans.

  6. There is a variety that is often called Kentucky Wonder Wax that is a yellow bean. I wonder if that is what you have. I love the purple beans. Too bad beans don't hold their color when they get cooked.

  7. My beans are behind just like your - I checked last year's photos and they far more advanced. I also have a lot of black fly which I have never experienced before - perhaps the weather is to blame or the cold start to the season or something - on the whole very disappointing so far.

  8. Your beans are further on than ours, bean seeds do often reflect the bean colour black seeds - green beans, light brown seeds - purple beans and almost white seeds - yellow beans,

    Some people spray flowers water too improve setting in dry weather but I guess that assumes that it is warm and sunny.

    1. My yellow beans buck the trend then, Sue. Very dark brown, almost black seeds producing yellow pods.

  9. Hi Mark. I was wondering if you would take a look at the pictures of my beans to see if you can tell if they have black fly. I've never had to deal with them before and could use a second opinion. I've included the address to my blog post with the pictures in the event that you agreed. Thank you in advance!

  10. I grow blauhilde purple beans sometimes and find that if the pods rub against something, the green from underneath shows through the purple too. All your beans look great, I'd like to try yellow ones sometime.


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