How to grow Legumes


Garden peas are some of the most nutritious of vegetables, especially if eaten shortly after picking. They are a cool season crop and while they do grow well in summer they might be susceptible to pests and diseases.

Like other legumes, peas make their own nitrogen which they add to the soil, but a good bed full of organic matter, and some added lime are good for peas. Peas can be sown straight into the ground in shallow drills about 4 cm apart. It is good to support your pea plants as they are quite flimsy, so try to place some twiggy branches to place next to your plants for them to climb up.

Pick the peas as soon as they are ready, but be very careful as you do so as they are very fragile plants can easily by pulled out the ground or whole sections pulled apart. Hold the plant firmly with one hand while you pick off the pea pod with the other.

Dwarf Beans

Dwarf beans may also be known as green beans, snap beans, French beans and bush beans. They form little bushes which produce lots of beans for the space they occupy and mature quickly.

Sow seeds in seed trays in early spring and plant them out in mid spring in rows 30cm apart with 20 cm between plants. The plants don’t need much attention until harvesting time when it is best to pick the pods while they are still young and tender, before the beans swell. Be careful when picking as it is easy to damage the plant while removing the pods. Harvest twice a week to ensure that you get them when they are at their best.

Runner Beans

Also known as pole beans, these plants are very rewarding to plant as they grow very fast, look good and produce a lot of beans. Prepare a deep trench with lots of compost and water retention for the bean plants.

Plant the seeds in seed trays in a greenhouse in early spring and then plant them out in late spring about 30 cm apart. It is a good idea to plant your seedlings out next to long sticks already secured in the ground that the runner beans can climb up. Runner beans can grow very high so make sure your sticks are about 2m long to get the best out of your bean plants. The tops of the sticks of two adjacent rows can be tied together to give further support to the plants.

Once the plants have reached the top of the sticks, prick off the top end of the plant to encourage it rather to produce beans than to grow upwards. Pick the pods when they are young and have not become stringy. This also encourages the plant to produce more beans.