- Runner Beans are a common sight in every allotment across the country because simply put freshly harvested young runner beans are one of the summers great delights and relatively easy to grow.
- Make sure to select the right variety for your available space, unless you select a dwarf variety expect the plant to grow to eight foot tall.
- Moisture retentive soil is key to growing a healthy crop of runner beans as they do not respond well to drying out.
- Runner beans will also appreciate a deep and fertile soil to allow the roots to penetrate deep.
- The ideal growing position is full sun but they will handle partial shade.
Sowing and Growing
- If sowing from seed do not be tempted to sow too early. Runner beans do not respond well to the cold so wait for the soil temperature to reach at least 13C before sowing out.
- In cooler climates wait until late May or early June before planting outside as runner beans are not frost resistant.
- I recommend sowing a batch of seeds in small pots undercover or in a greenhouse/propagator in late April. This will give you a head start and an earlier harvest than waiting to sow direct.
- Unless you are growing a dwarf variety runner beans will need a very good support system. The most common method used is to build a trellis system using bean poles or bamboo canes.
- Make sure your supports are long enough to support your chosen variety, I would recommend at least seven or eight foot minimum as the cane will need to be inserted one foot into the soil.
- The two most common way to make your trellis are either a wigwam or a tunnel.
- If you are growing in small space or in containers a wigwam is the better option, however, if you have a larger space a tunnel trellis is probably the better option.
- Space out your plants 15 to 20cm apart.
- Space your rows 30cm apart.
- Runner beans should be high on your list of plants to water first as they do not respond well to drying out, this is especially important if you are growing in containers.
- Keeping the plant watered is especially important when the plant is flowering. If the plant does not have enough water the flowers can fail to set resulting in a very poor harvest of beans. In my personal experience red flowering varieties are slightly harder to set so I recommend easy setting varieties for beginners.
- Runner beans can be fast to grow from seed to harvest in as little as eleven weeks but average time is closer to fourteen weeks.
- Do not let the bean get too big (unless you are saving seeds for next year) as once they get too big they become very hard and stringy.
- For a tender harvest make sure to pick all beans before they grow above fifteen centimetres.
- If you let the beans grow to maturity this can hamper the plants ability for the flowers to set. If you keep harvesting runner beans can crop for two months.
- Lady Di: Can be slow to grow but worth the wait due to its long pods and beautiful red flowers
- Scarlet Emperor: A tradition tried and trusted variety, always a safe option
- St George: A very heavy Cropper
- Moonlight: One of the best varieties for drier climates with beautiful white flowers
- Firestorm: Fantastic for beginners and urban environments as it is self pollinating and a good setter
- Dwarf: Brilliant for containers and small spaces as the plant does not grow above three foot