As part of the legume family, runner beans are a popular and easy to grow vegetable with a plentiful crop. A climbing plant; runner beans can save space on the allotment by growing vertically, which also makes for an attractive display when the plants are flowering.
Ideally, if you are in a colder location you should sow your bean seeds indoors from mid-April onwards with a view to planting out during May, once the threat of frosts has gone. Alternatively, wait and sow directly once the soil has warmed up in the middle of May.
It is worth spending time preparing the growing area first. Many growers use a traditional wig-wam type structure using tall canes tied together to support the climbing plants and are constructed to be sturdy enough to hold the weight; especially if your plot is an open space subject to winds.
The ground needs to be weed-free and organic matter added in too. Some growers traditionally dig trenches to help their bean plants, which are very thirsty plants. Also, you can place an open-ended plastic bottle or pot in the ground to help direct rainwater straight to the roots.
When your plants have been hardened off, or you are sowing out straight from seed, sow or plant one each side of the base of the canes, which will entwine as they climb. Pinch out the tops for a bushier plant when they reach the top of the canes.
They will require plenty of regular watering. you can also add some mulch to help retain the moisture.
During the summer, your bean plants will have a beautiful display of orange or white flowers, depending on the variety. Blackfly can be a problem, keep a watch for this and it can be sprayed away with soapy water.
Once the beans begin to form, you will need to pick the fully-formed beans approximately every other day to help encourage healthy bean growth and use up your crop as you go. Runner beans that are left to mature too long, can be stringy. Re-growth will slow down once you approach autumn. Runner beans are not hardy and will not cope with any frost.
Runner beans are a lovely vegetable side or they can be a tasty addition to casseroles. Runner beans can be frozen for storage too.