This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
These are generally sown, for a first crop, as soon in the year as possible, and in quantities as required at intervals of three weeks or a month. Our remarks on soil, when speaking of Peas, apply in this case also. There is little or no use planting Beans later than May. Plant them in rows 2 or 2 1/2 feet apart; in heavy soil draw drills and plant the Beans at 3 inches apart and 2 deep; where the soil is light they may be dibbled in with every success.
French or Kidney Beans require very different treatment. A sheltered spot with a good south or south-western aspect is usually afforded those, more especially in northern districts, although on light soils in favourable localities they do very well in the open quarters. In seasons like this they have not done well anywhere, and in exceptionally favourable seasons they might do well everywhere; but the prudent grower will afford them the most favourable spot at command. The small-growing varieties may be sown in drills 2 inches in depth, as much apart, and 2 feet between the rows; the more robust kinds should get 3 feet. If anxious for these as early as possible, the Beans may be planted in 3-inch pots, 2 Beans in a pot, and started and nursed for a time in a cold frame, and afterwards planted out during a favourable spell of weather towards the end of May, when danger from frost is past. A good time to make the first sowing is about the 1st of May, but only then if the soil is dry and warm - for if cold and wet, they will be apt to rot altogether, or come away very weakly at best, - so much so that those sown a fortnight later under more favourable circumstances will soon surpass them.
Should circumstances permit, sow at the beginning of May, at the middle of May, at the end, and the last sowing about the middle of June, when they can be protected from the effects of frost, as the least frost destroys them. Our experience in a somewhat cold late locality tells us that either earlier or later sowings are, even in the best of seasons, unprofitable, and in ordinary seasons quite useless.
Scarlet-Runners require treatment precisely similar, only, they grow to a great height, and so require to be staked in the manner of Peas. The scarlet blossoms are very ornamental, and for this reason they are often used for training on cottage walls or over any unsightly object; and as they grow rapidly in ordinary seasons, they are well suited for such purposes, besides yielding a profusion of pods exceedingly useful for the kitchen. All leguminous plants, commonly used as food, are distinguished by their extreme nutritiousness. Gardener.