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Dig a trench for climbing beans

Whether you are planning to grow Runner (Pole) Beans or French Climbing Beans, they all love a good base of moisture to help them grow.

Over Christmas is a perfect time to start planning for this crop. Traditionally they are grown in rows, using bamboo canes for the plants to grow up. At the base, dig out a trench around 1ft deep, 2ft wide and 6ft long. Remove the soil and place this nearby as you’ll need it later in the season during April.

In the bottom of the trench, start adding any kitchen waste such as egg boxes, egg shells, vegetable and fruit peelings (not lemons though, the worms don’t like lemons) and scrunched up newspaper (but not glossy magazines). The smaller you can get each item the better, so rip up the egg boxes and crunch the egg shells.

Throughout the Winter and Spring, add as much as possible to the trench, over time it will reduce in height. You may need to cover with fine chicken wire to keep out any animals who are looking for a quick meal.

During March add a few handfuls of chicken manure throughout the trench and cap the trench by using the soil you originally removed during Winter. The trench may seen rather high compared to the ground level but this will reduce by the time you come to plant in it.

Growing Beans without Digging a Trench

Runner Beans without digging a trench
Photo: Lisa Berry

An old guy told me how he dug a trench every winter for 30+ years to grow great beans, then tried no-dig, and was amazed how they grew just as well. In my trial, the no-dig beans yield as well if not more (3% more last year). A compost mulch and undisturbed soil hold moisture very well. Save time, save soil life.
– Charles Dowding

I’ve never done a bean trench and just mulched and always had more beans than I can cope with sometimes! I just dig over my raised bed lightly in the autumn and cover with manure then in the spring I dig it again lightly and add a bit of compost then plant in bean plants about June time after I have sowed seeds in last 2 weeks of May. (I’ll construct canes over the path during May). As they grow I might put a bit more well rotted manure around plants to conserve moisture.
– Lisa Berry

For details of individual plants, check out the Growing Guides.

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  • Leatrice Gulbransen

    I had no idea this was a thing to do. I was going to try it cause I don’t have room for a composter. Thanks for sharing how to do it. Much appreciated !