Growing your own Runner Beans is an ideal start for the beginner, as provided the soil is prepared well with lots of compost, they are very forgiving vegetables. The red or white flowers with attractive foliage make them a beautiful garden feature.
Alternative names for Runner beans are; French Beans, String beans or Pole Beans.
A native South American perennial plant, they are grown in the UK as a half-hardy annual, needing protection from frost. Many varieties grow to about 2m (6ft) tall and therefore need support.
Where To Grow
Runner beans will tolerate part shade but prefer a position in full sun. They are susceptible to high winds due to their height.
It doesn’t matter whether you are growing from seed or from plants bought from the nursery, the soil needs to be deeply dug with plenty of well rotted organic matter mixed into it, this will ensure that the soil can hold plenty of water which is critical for success.
If you wish to grow from seed please click here for more detailed information.
If you have bought plants from the Nursery or have grown then indoors to get an early start wait until the chance of frost has passed before planting out. Using a trowel dig a hole the same size as the pot the plant is in, gently remove the plant from its pot and place in the hole, firming the soil around it.
Supporting Runner Beans
Runner beans grow to about 2m (6 ft) high they are in need of support. The support system needs to provide a means by which the tendrils can pull the plant up.
The traditional form of support is a wigwam - four or five bamboo canes tied together at the top is good enough. Some garden twine wrapped round the canes will help the tendrils support the plant.
If you wish to grow runner beans in a small garden then a wigwam structure in a container is a good idea. This can be done either by using canes (as above) or lengths of string evenly space and secured to the edge of the container tied to the top of a centrally palce cane. This should be sufficient for either three or four plants.
There are plenty of other alternatives; one of which is appropriate for a family garden, this is to attach mesh netting loosely to a fence or wall and allow the runner beans to grow up the netting.
Caring and Cultivation
If the soil has been properly prepared as above, the runner beans only have three requirements, watering regularly (especially if container grown), weeding and the occasional feed. The application of a layer of organic material (this layer is called a mulch) around the plants will aid all three requirements, as it will help retain water in the soil, gently feed the plants whilst at the same time stopping weeds from growing. The only other real task is, once the runner beans have reached the top of the support structure, to remove the growing tips.
Runner beans are normally ready for harvesting from about mid July right through to October. Pick the runner beans when they are young. It is the texture not the length that lets you know if they are ready. If you can see the beans inside starting to show like small pebbles they are past their best. To keep the crop going pick frequently as this will encourage new beans to form and will extended the cropping season. Almost all varieties freeze well so this cropping frequently will not be a problem. Runner beans should be frozen a soon as possible.