All About Growing Legumes

Growing Legumes

These enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen in nodules of bacteria on their roots. In some soils, the first few crops may be poor as these bacteria are not present. Inoculate your soil with the bacteria, available from nurseries for use with alfalfa. Alternatively, acquire a little compost or soil from the garden of a friend (without brassica clubroot) who grows peas and beans well, and add this to the water for your first seed drill.

All About Growing Legumes- broad beans When clearing these crops, cut off the stems at ground level to leave the root systems to enrich the soil. They all enjoy lime in the soil and it can be applied during their rotation. Mulching with a thin sterile layer after sowing these large, strong-seeded crops will suppress weeds amongst them without risking their own emergence.


Broad beans

Broad beans are very nutritious and easy to grow, they freeze well and can even be dried for use in soups. Extra early crops of long-pod varieties may usually be had from early winter sowings in mild years. Broad beans can be planted with potatoes both in the autumn for the earliest crops if the winters are mild, or in the spring. The young beans protect the early potato shoots from wind and frost. Grown with gooseberries, they discourage sawfly caterpillars. Broad beans are also a good crop to follow with sweet corn as they leave a rich, moist soil and the stumps give wind protection to the maize’s young shoots. I sow them almost a hand’s breadth apart and nearly a finger deep. Pinch out the tips once the beans have flowered as this prevents black aphid attacks, or use soft soap later. Growing summer savoury nearby helps discourage the pest. Black ants protect the aphids from predators, so destroy their nests. Epicurean attentions Broad beans go well with summer savory, and if they are de-skinned they make a base for a most delicious pâté.


French and haricot beans

French and haricot beans came originally from South America and are variously known as waxpod, snap, string, green or just dwarf beans. These are a nutritious crop which freeze well and the seeds can be dried for winter use. They are prone to late frosts, cold wind and slug and bird damage, so benefit immensely from plastic bottle cloches. Mulches after sowing with grass clippings keep the soil in better condition, but encourage slugs. These beans do well with brassicas and celery when planted in rich, moist soil. Sow under cloches from late spring till late summer, an inch or so deep at a foot each way. If you are hungry enough, almost any homegrown dried French beans can be boiled and eaten, but for gourmet haricots of the best texture, grow suitable drying sorts. Give the plants a warm, dry site so they ripen well — cloches may help towards the end of the season. There are several climbing varieties that grow much like runner beans but have the finer texture and flavour of dwarf French beans. These are much the same to grow, but obviously need supports and are the best for growing out of season under cover.

Epicurean attentions

Keep the green bean varieties well picked or they soon stop producing. The pods are finest when you cannot see the bean seed shape from outside and the flesh snaps crisply when bent. Store the dried beans in the pods in a very dry, rodent-proof place and remember to start soaking them the night before they’re wanted for cooking.

‘Masai’, ‘Radar’ and ‘Aramis’ are my favourites for squeaky greens, as I call them. For drying haricots ‘Brown Dutch’ and ‘Horsehead’ are reliable — and wind-producing. ‘Blue Lake White Seeded’ and ‘Largo’ are good climbers.

Runner beans

Runner beans are highly productive climbers, but have a coarser texture and flavour than French beans. They need to be well mulched and watered to do very well and kept picked. They need supporting on poles, wires, or strings — netting is better and wire netting best of all. All of these can be suspended from posts, walls or fences. Runner beans can be a problem late in the season when they tend to shade out other crops. This may benefit some, especially celery and saladings, but only when enough water is available. Brassicas, especially Brussels sprouts, also benefit. They are sheltered by runner beans while small and then grow on once the beans die back, flourishing on the nitrogen left by them. Runner beans dislike kohlrabi, onions and often sunflowers, which is a shame! Try sowing the shorter varieties to grow up and over sweet corn. Runner beans are perennial and can be protected or overwintered as dormant ‘tubers’ for an earlier crop. Sow the seed in late spring in situ two or three inches deep and the same apart in rows. An easy crop to grow loads of, and varieties with coloured flowers and purple beans look good in ornamental areas. Epicurean attentions Usually best picked small. Surpluses can be frozen, salted or pickled and the dried seeds can be used in stews.



Peas are more work than most vegetables, but are so delicious fresh that I can never give up growing them and, being legumes, they enrich the soil for other crops. They are one of the few crops better grown in rows. I have modified the way they are usually sown and supported to save as much work as possible. First grow short varieties; although they produce less they do not need as much or as strong support, nor do they shade out other crops. Do not use pea sticks, as these take a lot of time to put up and take down and get in the way when picking. Instead use galvanised chicken netting on strong canes or metal stakes; it’s quick and easy to erect and in autumn the dried haulm can be stripped off, the roll wound up and any haulm left on can be burnt off, destroying spores and pests. And if you have enough, you can bend the bottom edge of the netting back and over the row, making a guard to keep off birds.

I sow peas an inch or two apart and the same deep in a well-watered and drained slit trench made with the edge of a spade instead of digging out a wide drill. After sowing peas, infill with soil and firm down. I use a thin, sterile mulch over the row to keep weeds down. My peas come through grass clippings, but in wetter areas peat or similar and sand is safer. It is expensive to buy pea seed and self-saved seed comes true. It is not even necessary to shell out the seed — I’ve laid the pods end to end in the slit, watered really well and had complete success. In dry conditions, peas germinate quicker if soaked for an hour or so before sowing. Adding a dash of seaweed solution helps disguise their smell from mice.

As peas need support, grow them down the middle of a bed with potatoes, brassicas, carrots or sweet corn on either side. For succession, peas can be sown from late winter till late summer. Some can even be sown in late autumn for over-wintering, though these rarely do very well unprotected. The early crops miss most problems, though. Pea guards keep birds from eating the seeds and young leaves — but not mice, so use humane traps if these are a great problem. Don’t worry about mildew: if the soil is quite moist, the plants won’t suffer. One good watering when the flowers are just finishing will improve yields substantially. If maggots in the peas bother you, use barriers of fine netting, or spray with derris once most of the flowers have just finished, but wait till the bees have gone home in the evening, or use the tip below.

Epicurean attentions

Pick peas early not late! Pod them immediately, blanch and freeze or cook and eat soon after, with joyous haste and lots of butter and mint jelly.


I cook the peas in the pods and serve them whole, so you can eat them by putting the pod in your mouth, gripping it with your teeth and withdrawing the pod leaving the succulent peas within.

Surplus peas can be dried on the vines and saved for use in winter soups and stews, though they need soaking overnight before use.

Mangetout peas have edible pods, so podding is not necessary when they are young and tender, but they are usually very tall and rapidly get too tough to eat.

Sugar-snap peas are similar, but much improved with thicker, sweeter edible pods. They also tend to be tall.

Asparagus peas are not really peas —they are more like a vetch. The pods can be eaten when very small and tender. The best that can be said of them is that they will grow in poor conditions and have pretty flowers.


06. January 2011 by admin
Categories: Vegetable Gardening | Tags: | Comments Off on All About Growing Legumes


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