This is Part 2 of a series of 5 posts dedicated to growing the easiest fruit and veg known to man kind. Well, known to me anyway. All choices have been tried and tested out (on more than one occasion) by me so you know that when I say this is easy to grow – I mean it!
Today see’s the turn of the bean – the Runner bean.
You can’t actually get much easier veg to grow than runner beans. In all years of having grown veggies in the garden it’s always been the runner beans that have cultivated well and lasted long into the autumn months.
Why grow Runner Beans?
Surely nothing is more tasty than a Sunday lunch of of roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, all finished off with a portion of beans. Or if you’re vegetarian then runner beans with carrots, cauliflowers and nut roast. Either way the beans just make a meal that extra bit special because they are only around in the shops for such a short time.
However shop bought ones are extremely expensive, you never know how fresh they are or how tough they might be before buying and cooking them. Home grown on the other hand is cheap to produce and you just have to step outside for your daily veg portion.
Bean flowers are a much needed aid to bees and the more bees you have the better your plants will be.
Runner beans originally came from South America, where today they tend to eat the roots rather than the pods of the bean plants.
How to grow
Don’t buy runner beans plants, seriously. It’s so easy to grow them from seed you’d be wasting good money if you bought shop plants.
Just buy a packet of seeds which range from 50p up to £2.50. You’ll get that payment back in one harvest of beans, that’d you’d otherwise pay in a shop.
I’ve only ever grown the Scarlet Emperor variety but this year I’m experimenting with a new variety – Lady Di.
You can either grow the seed indoors from May-June in pots. I am growing mine in 12cm post (two seeds per pot). Or wait until June and plant the seed into the ground.
Unlike other fruit & veg I write about runner beans do take up space. Not a lot, but they can’t really be grown in pots as you need a few plants to keep you going through the season. I usually grow between 10-12 plants and that’s more than enough for 2 people.
- A patch of ground 1msq (or raised bed), or even one of those pop up veg bags will be ideal for growing the runners.
- If using old soil, fork it over, top it up and add mulch to it in the form of either manure or garden compost. Dig it in well though. Runner beans like a lot of water so to save you a bigger job later on add as much mulch below the surface as you can now. If you’ve got clay type soil this will also help the soil structure and prevent the bean’s roots from potentially rotting in wet soil.
- Create a bean structure. This is the fun part. Using canes (bamboo or the more environmentally friendly hazel), and lots of string, construct a support system for your beans. Depending on the space you have this could be anything from the wigwam design to having rows of canes in a straight line. Be as adventurous as you like – train them over a fence, an arch or even a doorway to make the most of the space you have. As long as the beans have access to good soil and lots of sun they will grow well.
Sowing and Growing
- Having grown your seeds in a pot, by the end of May the seedlings should be ready for planting outside.
- plant the runner bean next to it’s support or if planting the seeds then just place two seeds next to the cane support and once germinated, elimate the smaller of the plants to leave just one seedling by the cane.
- Then its just a case of making sure the plants start to run up those canes, by encorouging the runners to twist round their supports. Once they take hold there is no stopping them from reaching up to 8ft (2.5m), although if you want you can pinch the top of the plants when they reach your desired height.
- Water in and leave. Don’t over water until the plants show signs of flowering. This will make the plant put more of it’s effort into making flowers rather than green leaves.
- You can of course feed the plants, if you wish but the mulch already added to the soil earlier will give the plants pretty much all the feed they need.
- Add further mulch of straw or manure to stop water evaporating from the ground on those hot summer days, and this will cut down on the time you have to spend watering.
- By late July the pods will be ready for picking. Pick small and often (every day) to begin with to encorouges the plant to create more flowers and then pods.
Pests and Diseases
Just watch out for that green fly! They will attack the youngest shoots on the plants if not kept in check. Enough greenfly will mean no shoots, which mean no flowers, which mean no beans.
No need ever to use harmful chemicals. There are many non-chemical treatments you can use on your beans. Horticultural soap, companion planting, and the ever faithful – use your fingers to squish the little blighters all works wonders.