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Runner Beans are extremely easy to care for and make an ideal vegetable for novice and experienced gardeners to grow. Providing support for the runner beans to climb up is one of the primary tasks. Strange though it may seem, runner beans are programmed by nature to twist up poles, stems and similar items. They are not programmed to grow up netting and don't do very well when netting is their only support.

When starting them off remember that they are also programmed to spiral up the poles in a clockwise direction (when viewed from below). If you try and twist them round support in the other direction they will try to untwist themselves!


SUPPORTING RUNNER BEANS

There is a rumour going round that what happens in the Northern Hemisphere (where the UK is) is not necessarily what happens in the Southern Hemisphere, for instance Australia, as far as runner beans are concerned. Well I can confirm from personal experience that runner beans twist and grow in exactly the same direction (clockwise when viewed from below) there as well. They do exactly the same wherever you are in world.

We described on the previous page some of the common shapes for supporting runner beans. In most cases the tendrils of the bean plants attach to bamboo canes of their own accord and entwine themselves around them. Occasionally they do need some help and gently tying them to the canes will do the job.

WATERING, FEEDING AND CARE OF RUNNER BEANS


Runner bean plants need lots of water, one look at the amount of foliage per plant will tell you that. If the weather becomes dry water them once a week with lots and lots of water. Weed around the base of the plant to reduce competition from weeds. In early July when the plants have established themselves a good mulch with well-rotted organic matter will conserve water, reduce weeds and provide some body to the soil when it is dug in at the end of the year. A layer of mulch 3cm / 1½ deep is not too much, 5cm / 2in is even better.

The actual runner beans will begin to appear late June to mid-July but this is very dependent on the variety grown, the weather conditions in your area of the UK and when you managed to plant them out. For example we live near Warwick, an area just slightly cooler than average in the UK, and the variety we grew was Lady Di. The first signs we saw of small runner beans was on on July 9th.

The next best thing you can do do to your runner bean plant is to harvest very frequently. Many people end up with a glut of runner beans but it would be better if they picked the beans when they were immature, say about 17cm / 7in long. This would reduce the harvest at any one point in time but the young beans are the tastiest of all and the time of harvest will be extended. The rule with runner beans is to pick them young even if you cannot eat them. Unused ones can be put on the compost heap.

Victoriana Nursery Runner Bean seeds

Harvest the beans using a pair of scissors to avoid damaging the stem by pulling on the plant. They will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days although are always best eaten on the day of harvest. Click here for some of our favourite recipes for runner beans.

NEXT PAGE - RECOMMENDED VARIETIES OF RUNNER BEANS

COMMENTS / QUESTIONS LEFT BY OUR READERS

Date: 5 September 2016 From:  Mrs Tolley
I planted a 14ft row of scarlet emperor runner beans in May and no flowers appeared until now which of course is too late. Where may I have gone wrong?

ANSWER: The normal reason for lack of flowers, or late flowers is too much nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen encourages leafy growth often at the expense of flowering. Possibly you added some nitrogen rich fertiliser at the beginning of the season which is only running out now. Next year, try only feeding with blood, fish and bone and lots of watering.

Date: 21 May 2016 From:  Colin R
I have planted beans in a large wooden crate, is there a limit to how many plants I should put in. Do I need to separate them?

ANSWER: Personally I would only sow runner bean seeds in individual pots. if you sow lots of seeds in trays the plants will quickly have entangled roots. Runner beans produce roots very quickly after germination. If I was sowing them in wooden crates or any other large container I would keep them as far apart as possible.

Date: 1 August 2015 From:  Maisie
My runner (and climbing) beans have copious foliage, so much so that it forms an 'umbrella' over the plant, meaning that even a good rainfall doesn't get to the soil or roots. Will I do any harm by pruning up to 30% of the leaves to allow more rain, sun and airflow to the plants?

ANSWER: Yes, that will be fine. By nature, runner beans produce excessive foliage because they are climbers and they are programmed to survive low light levels. I have a sneaking suspicion that removing some of the foliage will in fact increase the crop of beans. I just haven't had time to test the theory out.

Date: 1 July 2015 From:  Jenny C
Does it help the runner bean to pinch out the tops to stop them trailing over?

ANSWER: Yes, it does help them. Firstly they start to produce beans earlier if you pinch out the tops. It also stops the top of the supports from becoming congested with overgrown foliage - that can attract fungal diseases. Finally it stops the top part of the plants becoming so heavy that they pull themselves off the supports. I usually pinch my runner beans out when they get to 15cm / 6in from the top of the supports.

Date: 6 July 2015 From:  Denis B
Is Tomorite a suitable feed for Runners Beans. Very slow this year despite trenching with manure and lots of water. Thanks

ANSWER: It won't do any harm but I doubt it will do much good either. If you have trenched with manure all the necessary nutrients will be there. I think the problem is more likely to be the variable weather this year in some areas of the UK rather than lack of nutrients.

Date: 31 May 2015 From:  Kate W
We went on holiday. A friend has watered them every day. The leaves on both plants have turned white. Will they recover? I see some new undamaged growth appearing but i didn't harden them off before planting. Should I start all over again?

ANSWER: It does sound like the plants have suffered from the cold weather. As a solution I would compromise. First, leave the existing runner bean plants where they are, if they have new growth they may well recover. As a backup I would sow new seeds now in pots and keep them indoors to speed up germination. If you soak the seeds by placing them on damp kitchen paper for 24 hours before sowing them in pots that will speed up the process even more.

Your seeds will have germinated in a week and be ready for planting outside in two weeks. At that point you can look at your existing plants and decide if you want to replace them with the new seedlings.

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