French beans

French beans – Grow Guide

Grow tasty French beans with the help of our practical guide to sowing and growing.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Do not Sow in January

Do not Sow in February

Do not Sow in March

Do Sow in April

Do Sow in May

Do Sow in June

Do Sow in July

Do not Sow in August

Do not Sow in September

Do not Sow in October

Do not Sow in November

Do not Sow in December


Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December


Do not Harvest in January

Do not Harvest in February

Do not Harvest in March

Do not Harvest in April

Do not Harvest in May

Do not Harvest in June

Do Harvest in July

Do Harvest in August

Do Harvest in September

Do Harvest in October

Do not Harvest in November

Do not Harvest in December

  • Average Yield

    4.5kg per 3m row

  • Spacing

    15cm apart

    45cm between rows

  • Depth



French beans give you two crops for the price of one: enjoy the pods when they’re young and tender, or leave them to dry on the plant for use as haricot beans. Easy to grow and heavy cropping, French beans are available as dwarf types that are suitable for growing in pots, or as climbers that will crop reliably during hot weather, unlike runner beans.

French beans need sun, shelter and a fertile, moisture-retentive soil. 

Growing French beans from seed


Sowing and planting French beans

French beans need sun, shelter and a fertile, moisture-retentive soil. They don’t do well on heavy clay, so dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter, such as garden compost, before planting.

As a tender crop, French beans need to be sown indoors from April, then planted outside after the last frost, usually in late May or early June. For a supply of beans through to autumn, keep sowing every three weeks until early summer. Later sowings can be made outdoors, but seedlings need to be covered with a cloche to keep them warm.

Dwarf French beans planted 15cm apart won’t need any staking. Climbing French beans look particularly attractive grown with sweet peas on a wigwam of canes in the flower border.

Tending the crop

For a good crop of beans, water plants regularly, especially while they’re flowering. Maintain the moisture in the soil around the roots by applying a mulch of garden compost.


Harvesting French beans

For delicious, tender French beans, pick them as soon as they are large enough to eat (after about eight weeks). Snip them off with scissors. Regular picking encourages the plant to produce more beans.


If you don’t want to eat the whole crop straight away, blanch beans in boiling water for two minutes and freeze.

Preparing and using French beans

Never eat raw pods. To prepare, top and tail the beans, then lightly steam and serve with a knob of butter. You can also add cooked beans to salads. Dried beans must be soaked for at least five hours, then briskly boiled for 10 minutes and simmered for an hour or so before being added to soups and casseroles.


Watch out for slugs, which love to eat young plants. Deter them with crushed eggshells or apply nematodes.

How to dry French beans

Leave the pods on the plant to dry naturally. Or, if the weather turns damp, dig up the whole plant and hang it upside down in a warm, airy place to dry. Empty the pods and store the beans in jars in a cool, dark place.

french beans square

French bean varieties to try

Dwarf beans

  • ‘Borlotto’ – colourful mature pods that are ideal for drying. Beans have a pleasant texture and flavour
  • ‘Purple Teepee’ – abundant harvests of eye-catching purple pods up to 15cm long
  • ‘Sonesta’ – stringless, pretty yellow beans that grow up to 13cm long

Climbing beans

  • ‘Borlotto Lingua di Fuoco Nano’ – an Italian variety with spectacular pods splashed with red
  • ‘Hunter’ – large crops of stringless, flat pods up to 20cm long, and good disease resistance