How to grow beans & tomatoes

Summer is a great time to grow your own beans and tomatoes. Now is the time to plant up a glorious vegetable garden filled with home grown delights. In a sunny patch measuring three square metres, you can produce a stream of fresh home grown vegetables for your family throughout summer.

Growing your own is really easy. Legendary tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk made beans one of the most loved vegetables grown by children. Growing your own tomatoes and filling your salad with home grown fare is the ultimate in trendy fashion. Anyone who grows their own tomatoes will tell you they taste better and a summer dream. Impress your friends with your gardening flair and ‘green fingered expertise’ by following this simple step-by-step guide to planting beans and tomatoes:

growing_beans_2How to grow beans

There are two types of beans commonly grown in the home garden, bush beans and runner beans. Beans contain vitamins A, B and C and are a good source of fibre. They are best harvested young when carbohydrates are present in the form of sugar. 

Choose a level area where beans will receive at least five hours of sun a day. Prepare the ground by forking over the bed, removing weeds and stones and breaking up any lumps. Add half a bag of compost and a handful of a general fertiliser per square metre, rake the surface as evenly as possible, and water well the day before planting.

Bush beans

Mark rows for bush beans with stretched string, then make a furrow on this line. Sow seeds 2cm deep and 5-8cm apart, allowing 60cm between rows. Mulch between rows to conserve water - and reduce weeds. On hot days, prevent vegetables from wilting by watering early in the morning, and if necessary again in the late afternoon.

Beans mature quickly and are ready to harvest 8 to 10 weeks after planting. Sow at regular intervals to prolong the harvest. Popular varieties are ‘Star’, ‘Contender’, ‘Imbali’ (a South African bred bean, resistant to rust and mosaic virus) and ‘Timbavoti’ that bears prolifically.

Runner beans

The advantage of growing runner beans is that they take up less space than bush varieties making them suitable for small gardens, and are easier to harvest. They have a longer productive season than bush beans, producing pods in 65 to 85 days. They can grow 2m tall, so will need support in the form of a fence or wigwam. Pick while young as this also extends the season. ‘Lazy Housewife’ has medium green slightly flattened pods with good flavour; ‘Witsa’ has oval to round shaped pods.

How to grow tomatoes

Nothing can equal the taste of a ripened tomato picked fresh from the garden. Just a few plants is all you need to provide for a family’s needs. 


Tomatoes need sun and soil rich in organic matter. Grow from seed or plant seedlings 30-45cm apart. Seedlings are best planted deep in the soil with the top four leaves just above the surface. This helps develop a strong root system. A layer of mulch will keep the soil cool, conserve moisture and discourage weeds. Water the root area thoroughly and regularly, avoiding water on leaves. Fertilise with a specially formulated tomato fertiliser according to instructions or a fertiliser granules for vegetable gardens. For the best flavour, allow tomatoes to ripen on the vine. 

There are two types of tomato plants – bush varieties and trellis varieties. Bush varieties should be staked or grown in a cage, and as the plant grows, tied to the support with soft string. Bush varieties include ‘Floridade’ which has been bred to withstand high temperatures, ‘Heinz’ which has flat and round fruit, ‘Oxheart’ extra large fruit and ‘Roma’ with its recognisably oblong fruit. 

Tomato varieties better suited to a trellis or wigwam, include the popular ‘Moneymaker’, which has medium size flavourful fruit borne on heavy trusses.  ‘Brandywine’ is a popular heirloom variety which dates back to the late 1800s with large reddish-pink fruits, rich in flavour. 

Cherry tomatoes produce small fruit, ideal for salads. Seed sown in spring and summer will germinate in 7 to 14 days and harvesting begins in 70 to 80 days. Cherry tomatoes can also be grown in large pots and trained on a wigwam or trellis. Nip off the growing point when it has reached the desired height.

‘Cherry Yellow Pear’ are small heirloom tomatoes borne in clusters and can be grown in pots, hanging baskets or up a trellis. ‘Bite Size’ has small round red fruit, and ‘Sweety’ cherry tomato is ideal for growing in pots.

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