Expert Advice for Growing Runner Beans
Growing Runner Beans
Growing runner beans couldn’t be simpler. They are one of the most popular home-grown vegetables owing to the exceptionally fine flavour of a freshly picked young crop.
In addition to the usual climbing forms, dwarf varieties are sometimes available and these are especially useful in a small garden where a tall screen of climbers might be inappropriate. A compact way of growing runner beans of the climbing variety, is in the form of a wig-wam or maypole, which may be made at home or bought and consists basically of twelve strings, wires, or bamboos radiating from the top of a stout stake inserted firmly in the ground. Whatever form of support is used, it should be fixed before sowing the beans. With double rows of poles or bamboos, tie the supports at the top to another pole laid horizontally. The pressure on supports may be considerable when the plants are cropping and the weather is windy.
Sow the beans individually, dibbing them in 40-50 mm (1-1/2 – 2 in) deep at intervals of 150 mm (6 in) from mid-May if the weather is favourable and there is no danger of frost. Cloche-protected beans can be sown in late April after the cloches have been in place for a few weeks to warm the. The seedlings can be ventilated in fine weather but do not remove the cloches until frosts are over. The rows should be about 600 mm (24 in) apart.
Growing runner beans definitely repays good soil preparation. Choose a sunny site, not too exposed to wind. Double dig in autumn, mixing in plenty of compost; alternatively, dig a 450 mm (18 in) trench on the site of your rows and use it as a compost heap until early spring. Then remove most of the compost, thoroughly mix the rest with soil, and allow this to settle before sowing. Keep the soil well watered and weed-free after sowing. Pinch out the tops ofwhen they have reached the top of their supports. Sometimes the plants are inadequately pollinated and so produce fewer beans than normal. A number of runner bean growers believe that the white or pink-flowered varieties suffer less in this way than the commoner scarlet types.
When you are growing runner beans, harvest your crop when the pods are only a few inches long and before the seeds inside begin to press against the pod wall. Regular cropping extends fruitfulness.
Usually disease-free, runner beans may be infested with blackfly, which should be controlled with dimethoate or other insecticides.
Recommended varieties: ‘Achievement’, suitable for freezing; ‘Enorma’, fine flavour, suitable for freezing; ‘Fry’, white flowered, nearly stringless and suitable for freezing; ‘Red Knight’, stringless, suitable for freezing; ‘Sunset’, pink flowered, fine flavour
Site: Sunny, sheltered
Soil: Well dug and enriched; moist
Sow: Late April if protected; mid-May if unprotected
Harvest: Regularly while pods are young and tender