I have been sitting for more than one hour in an undisclosed high traffic hotel, waiting to see how many customers place an order for some French beans based meal, but I see none!
This brings a feeling that most of us either do not know what French beans are, how they are produced or the nutritive benefits that come from them.
Most people tend to go for fast food rich with lots and lots of fatty ingredients.
Yes, these kinds of food have instant gratification but pose long-term health risks.
This is terribly wrong.
Our bodies need a balanced diet and giving it in excess of any one requirements is poisonous and dangerous to our health.
Our bodies, just like plants that are growing out in the fields need a balanced supply of nutrients.
Regular consumption of veggies in your diet is essential.
Consuming French beans regularly helps to keep your body fit by reducing the chances of weight gain, heart diseases e.g. coronary heart disease and stroke.
One serve of French beans at least twice a day gives your body high levels of vitamins A, C, K and minerals like magnesium and folate.
You even become more energetic with low chances of developing obesity.
Having given you these few tips on the importance of French beans in your diet, let me also add that there is a very high demand for French beans globally.
This makes it one of the most lucrative ventures for most farmers.
I assume that you would like to have some knowledge on how you can grow French beans in your farm, either for home consumption or for commercial purposes.
Let’s take a look at how to grow them.
A Step by Step Guide to Growing your French Beans
We are looking into cultivation of the bushy French beans which spread horizontally, do not require support system and it’s the most preferred variety by the majority of growers due to its simplicity in production.
First and foremost, we all know that not all sites are suitable for growing of French beans. These legumes require full day sun for proper growth, maximum yield and good quality.
So try by all means to choose a site in your farm whereby, be it in the morning, during the day or in the afternoon your crop will receive full sunlight.
By this I mean, you should go for sites away from shades from trees or buildings.
Soils in shady areas have high moisture holding capacity, an unfavourable condition for growing of French beans.
Having selected your site, plough this land to a fine tilth getting rid of any debris like weeds, stones or previous crop remains.
Then analyse your soil to understand any deficiencies and how you should amend it.
It’s not a must you take the soil to the labs for texture analysis, you can easily test on your own.
And how do you do this?
Simply grab a fist full of the soil you intend to plant the beans into and squeeze it hard for a few seconds to a minute, then release it and closely observe how it behaves.
Sandy soils usually fall apart immediately you release them from your hands, Loamy soils will remain together after releasing them but then break apart upon touching them.
Clay soils, on the other hand, will remain together in a ball even if a slightly forceful touch is applied.
Although loamy soils are ideal for French bean cultivation, do not feel disturbed either be discouraged by finding out that your soils aren’t loamy since soil amendment is encouraged for any type of soil.
Amending the soil
Suppose you have light sandy soils, mix using a garden fork or a shovel 5 cm (2 inches) of compost or manure for every one foot (30 cm) of the top soil. This helps in improving the water holding capacity as well as drainage of the soil.
In case your soils are heavy clay, carry out the amendment process just like we did in the sandy soils and also add some sand or sawdust.
This helps in improving the drainage of the soil.
We are now done with the process of soil amendment and the land is now ready for sowing the seeds.
But before planting, it’s very important for you to add some phosphorous rich fertiliser to the soil NPK 10-20-10. Such type of fertilisers is good at promoting strong crop yield.
Planting the French beans
Planting of French beans does not require a lot of expertise.
Just make planting rows at a distance of 45-90 cm apart. Then dig out 2-5 cm deep planting holes each 5-10 cm apart.
The distance between the planting holes obviously depends on how long you would wish your crop to extend horizontally and also if you would like to thin out later.
The depth of the planting holes depends on the type of soil you are working on.
Sandy soils, for example, require deeper holes for moisture retention and vice versa for the other soil types.
That is the reason I mentioned earlier that you have to know your soil type before anything else.
Place the seeds (treated seeds) each on to its own hole.
Cover lightly with soil and then apply a light mulch (not exceeding 5 cm thick).
The mulch will protect the seeds from being displaced by a heavy downpour or by splashes of water during irrigation.
Second, it helps to suppress the weeds. You can use weathered straw or untreated lawn for mulching.
Caring for your crop
In about 8-10 days, the seeds will have sprout so remove the mulch and continue watering in the morning especially in strong sunny days to ensure that the ground does not dry up.
Be careful enough not to over water as this may lead to the crop rotting or dying from drowning. If the weather is rainy or cloudy, do not water the crop.
Step 2: Feeding/fertiliser application
French beans thrive well in soils with normal fertility but sometimes there is a need to add some fertiliser especially when the nutrient levels are low.
In that case, lightly side dress the crop using a fast release fertiliser with high levels of nitrogen to enrich the soil.
Avoid applying too much of the fertiliser as this might lead to more of foliage rather than pods.
Assuming that some of us might be growing the French beans on sandy soils, then the frequency of fertiliser application increases.
Apply a fast release nitrogen rich fertiliser once the seedlings form and carry out another application of the same once these seedlings reach the budding stage.
This will counteract with the low nutrient levels in the soil.
Step 3: Weeding
You must ensure by all means your crop is not exposed to weeds.
French beans are shallow rooted crops, hence weed shallowly by hoeing or simply uproot using hands to avoid damaging the roots.
Alternatively, as the crop grows taller, you can use mulch around the base of the base of the crop to suppress the weeds and reduce the weeding frequencies.
Weeds deprive the French beans off the nutrients, act as a bridge through which insects and pests get to the crop and encourage diseases like Powderly mildew and rust in French beans.
So it’s very good to always maintain a weed free environment for your crop.
Step 4: Support
I remember earlier mentioning to you that bushy French beans do not require support.
However, in some cases depending on the geographical area and the prevailing weather conditions, you might need to place some support system into place though a very simple one and cost free – that is if need be.
Cut off small twigs or pegs, and, use them to support your French beans at the main stem near the point where the lateral branches emerge.
This gives your French beans support at times of heavy downpour or strong winds and the crop does not fall over.
I again say that it’s not a must you support your French beans.
But if you want your crop to remain in good shape, then you need to be a good observer on the prevailing weather conditions and the chances of the conditions changing and therefore decide on whether to support your French beans or not.
Step 4: Crop protection
Am sure by now you are at par with all the steps that we have gone through on how to take care of your French beans.
Most importantly, we need to have a look at the enemies that if not detected and dealt with early enough will wipe your entire.
Number one of these enemies is the Pests.
Number two is the diseases.
Let’s have a look at them listwise.
There are few pests that attack French beans though this should not be a reason for not scouting for pests in your French beans.
Am giving you a few examples and descriptions so that you will be able to recognise the pests invading your French beans if there are any.
These insects are smaller than a ladybird but bigger than a mite.
The easy way to recognise them is when you see the leaves of the French beans covered in tiny bugs.
You can control aphids naturally by growing marigold near the French beans. This will attract ladybirds which in turn feed on the aphids. Also, you can hose them off the leaves when watering your French beans.
Trim off any leaves that lie low on the ground as a control measure.
These are insects that just as their name sounds, feed on the stems of young French beans either below or on the soil surface and finally cut them down.
Others will climb up the crop and feed on the foliage, young shoots and buds.
If you come across observations like fallen young French beans seedlings, or withering sign on your French beans, use an insecticide like Bacillus thuringiesis to get rid of the cutworms.
There are a number of diseases that affect French beans.
Let’s go through the main ones quite briefly on their causes, symptoms/ signs and how to control them.
Root rot is a fungal disease. The affected French beans have signs of yellow/dry stems near the soil level.
In order to control root rots in your French beans, drench the soil when the French beans are at their vegetative stage.
This is yet another one of fungal diseases.
Anthracnose is characterised by pods developing sunken, brown spots with black edges. If your French beans show such signs, embark on ensuring that the field hygiene is top notch.
You can also apply foliar sprays to rejuvenate the lost foliage.
Bacterial blight is a very common disease to French beans growing in cool and wet places.
The disease is characterised by yellow-water soaked pods and dying of the leaf margins.
Use copper based fungicides to deal with bacterial blight in your French beans.
When you check around your French beans and come across a whitish black powder on the leaves, stems and the flowers, be sure that your crop has been infected with Powderly Mildew.
Having this in mind, you have to check on field hygiene control and apply a fungicide.
Development of rust is encouraged by high levels of humidity.
If you keenly check your French beans, you might come across small white spots that are slightly raised on the back of the leaves.
These white spots will then turn to reddish-black in few days.
This may lead to your French beans not producing as expected or even dying.
Chemical sprays will greatly help you control rust.
Not forgetting that you must use certified seeds and also carry out crop rotation.
Step 5: Yield, Harvesting and Storage
Depending on where your French beans have been grown, it will take approximately 45-60 days from planting to harvesting.
Harvest your French beans at regular intervals when the seeds inside the pods are not mature.
Mostly at this stage of growth, the pods have a pencil thick size.
Pick the pods and keep them in an airtight, moisture-proof container in a refrigerator.
In an acre of land, under the good care of your French beans, you can harvest over 4 tonnes of French beans.
Having taken you through the basics on how to grow and take care of French beans, it’s my greatest hope that you have learnt several new things that you didn’t know before you read this article.
I believe that you have already developed an interest in growing French beans on your farm.
- You should always know the type of soil you are working on.
- Always use healthy certified seeds.
- Maintain favourable moisture levels for your French beans throughout the entire growing period.
- Pay close observation on your French beans to detect any pest or disease attack.
- Control the pests or diseases immediately you detect them. Do not wait for tomorrow. Keep the crop environment clean free from weeds.