French beans come in dwarf varieties and climbing varieties, which are grown the same as runner beans and so this page is focusing on the dwarf varieties.
French beans are part of the legume family and can be sown early indoors to be planted out or sown directly once the threat of frosts as passed. Unlike runner beans, dwarf beans do not require much support as they only grow to approximately 2 feet tall, a small cane may help but it is not always necessary.
To sow indoors, plant two bean seeds in each pot with compost, water and keep in a light position until you are ready to plant them out. Harden them off before planting in their final growing position during May time when the last frosts have been and gone.
To sow directly, sow two seeds; one either side of a small cane, approximately 2 inches deep in rows spaced approximately 4-5 inches apart. Water well during dry spells and when the plants are in flower. Be mindful of pests such as slugs and blackfly. Blackfly can usually be washed away unless you have a serious infestation.
Beans will begin to form and grow once the plants have flowered, approximately 8-12 weeks from sowing time. Pick the beans regularly to encourage re-growth. You will likely be able to harvest a plentiful crop every 2-4 days in the height of the season. Carefully pull off the bean from the plant, taking care not to break the plant or pull it up.
Dwarf beans can be frozen, with the exception of yellow varieties. You can also dry them out for the seeds. Ensure they are completely dried out. You can leave them on the plant longer for them to swell first.