Thinking about growing runner beans in your garden? Not only are they nutritious and delicious, but they are also perfect for small spaces. They have great succulence, texture, and flavour – quite different from the stringy beans that you will find in your local shops.
You may already know how to grow garlic, sweet potatoes, peas or broccoli, but no vegetable garden in the UK is complete without some scarlet-flowered runner beans. Since the white flowers or red flowers are drop-dead gorgeous, you can grow them as an annual climber in your flower garden and add to the beauty of your home. Read on and find out the tricks on how to grow runner beans like a pro!
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Best runner beans to plant
When you are looking for varieties of plants that you should grow, look for the RHS award. The runner beans with the RHS award are Firelight, Firestorm, Stardust, St. George, Snowstorm, and a few more.
There are various varieties of runner beans that you can choose from, depending on the growing conditions and your needs. The runner bean “Hestia” for example is the dwarf variety and is perfect for small gardens and patio containers. ”Scarlet Emperor” and “Armstrong” are known for their superb flavour while “St.George” and “Celebration” varieties have beautiful bicolour flowers that are perfect as attractive and productive border plants.
When and where to grow runner beans
Two of the most important questions that you need to answer before starting your veg garden. Have a look!
Where to grow
Runner beans grow well in partial shade. To encourage pollinating insects, you should plant runner beans in a relatively sheltered spot, away from strong winds. They will be happy in any well-drained, fertile soil. They need a lot of water, so make sure you water them properly and regularly, especially during warmer seasons. We recommend that you prepare the sowing site in spring by digging the soil and adding some organic matter. However, you should not add manure immediately before you plant them since this will promote the growth of foliage instead of beans.
Usually, runner beans are planted over filled-in trenches that are stocked with shredded newspaper or well-rotted organic material. Kitchen waste works as well since the main reason for digging trenches is to provide a moist, deep root run that will keep the runners protected in case of drought. If you live in a windy or cold place, you should protect the young plants by growing them in a greenhouse until they mature.
When to Grow
Runner beans are relatively sensitive and tender plants and they won’t survive frost. Therefore, for an early crop, sow seeds indoors in late spring, or outdoors in early summer.
Runner beans don’t like cold soil, so wait till the temperature of the planting site is at least 10ºC before planting them. Keep sowing every couple of weeks till early summer to spread out the bean harvest. If you want to sow the seeds early, you do so in seed trays or modules on a sunny windowsill and transplant them later.
How to plant runner beans
Depending on whether you plant your beans indoors or outdoors, there are some things that you should keep in mind.
Sowing runner beans indoors
It is better to sow runner beans indoors in a propagator or on a windowsill, in late April or early May. Take a small pot, and fill it with seed compost. In each small pot, sow one bean almost 3cm deep.
Cover the seed with compost, and water the soil. The germination time is very fast. It happens after a week and they will grow pretty quickly. Harden the runner beans for at least 7 to 10 days before you transplant them outdoors. It is better to wait till early June so that all risk of frost has passed.
Sowing runner beans outdoors
You can also do it directly outdoors from late May to July. Sow the runner beans seeds 3cm deep and keep a distance of 25cm. between each bean. Keep the distance between the rows at almost 30cm.
If you have limited space, you can plant the runner beans against a wigwam structure. Runner beans are happy to grow in containers as well – you can harvest a full crop right from your patio!
How to care for your runner bean crop
Maintaining your runner beans at their finest isn’t really hard. There are though a couple of things that you need to consider.
You will have to water the plants regularly throughout the growing season, especially once the beans start to develop flowers. If you don’t give the beans enough water, the flowers can fail to set the bean pods.
To maximize their growth, give them liquid feed once every 14 days. Once the plants start to flower, you should pay special attention to watering them. The flowers will disappear by mid-July and you will see small green beans. However, if you see that your crop is not setting pods, there are a few things you can do. If there is insufficient water and the temperatures are high, the crop will not set pods.
For proper growth, runner beans require strong support. Take 4 bamboo canes – about 3m long each – and push each end firmly into the soil. Tie their tops to create a wigwam. As the runner beans grow, tie the new shoots to the canes to help them get a good grip.
Once the stems of the plants reach the top of the canes, pinch the growing tips so that the plants will start producing beans instead of growing tall.
Apart from regular water and strong support, make sure that you root out all the weeds and feed the plant regularly with organic material. Keep an eye on the sunlight and wind conditions as well.
Common runner beans pests and diseases
When it comes to common pests and diseases, here are a few things you need to keep an eye out for.
Diseases and issues
Halo blight is characterized by brown spots on the leaves that are surrounded by a halo. This disease is caused by the seeds themselves. They might have come from a bad source and weren’t properly stored.
Make sure that you examine the seeds properly before planting them. If they are unusually shaped, wrinkled, or marked, reject them. There is no cure for halo blight. You should dig up the plant and get rid of it.
If there are very few beans, it is most likely due to poor pollination or lack of moisture. Make sure that you plant the runner beans into the soil with plenty of organic matter. Moreover, plant them in a sheltered site so that bees and other pollinators will visit them.
Black bean aphid
Aphids suck the sap of the plant and stunt its growth. If the aphids are present on broad beans, pinch out the infested tips. Squash the aphid population as soon as you catch them.
To get rid of blackflies, you can plant marigolds that will attract hoverflies and ladybugs that are their natural predators. If you spray the runner beans with water, you can knock the pests off the plant. If these two methods don’t work, you can buy a safe, organic insecticide.
Slugs and snails
Slugs attack all parts of the runner beans – from the pods to the leaves to roots and stems. However, they love to feed on the runner bean seedlings and they will leave a tell-tale slime trail on the leaves and on the ground as well. You can control slugs with the help of copper tape, eggshell barriers, etc.
Harvesting runner beans
Wait for at least 12 weeks after sowing the beans. Once the pods are almost 20cm long, it is time to harvest them. This is usually around mid-summer and will continue till the first frosts.
Pick the runner beans once every 2 to 3 days to make sure that they are tender and don’t become stringy. The more pods you pick, the more they will regrow. They go from flat to fat very quickly!
How to store and use runner beans
Slice the beans, and blanch them in boiling water. Drain them and let them cool down. Simply pop them into plastic bags and then freeze them.
You can use cold, cooked beans in salads. They are also delicious when you lightly steam them with a splash of butter. You can boil them for 5 to 10 minutes and then cook them in butter till they are crisp. There are various other recipes that you make with the help of runner beans. Whatever you do, you shouldn’t eat them raw.
Now that you know how runner bean plants work, how would you feel about taking this project and making it a “my garden is the best” thing? With their red and white flowers, and their amazing taste, there’s no way you won’t feel proud about the outcome. After all, you can easily grow your own runner beans, no matter how small your garden space is.
Happy Gardening, Folks!