Where to Begin?
The runner bean is still one of the many people's most favourite vegetables. Runner beans are a popular and relatively easy crop to grow in the UK and with good growing conditions most people find that they are generally disease-free.
In order to be successful in growing runner beans there is some preparation work that needs to be done first. Without the right preparation it would be difficult to grow a decent crop.
Steps to successfully grow runner beans
You should first prepare the ground for the runner beans to grow. Start by preparing a hole, which is about 60cm wide and 25cm deep. For best results you should then fill it with old manure and then top it up with soil from a compost heap.
The next step is to prepare your support beams for the runner beans to grow and climb their way up. You can either make these yourself or you can buy these readily prepared. However there is nothing more rewarding than preparing your own. All you need to build your own support beams is a few essential materials. Bamboo sticks can used, but a few lengths of wood, a hammer and some nails will get you started in the right direction.
When is best to plant runner bean seeds in the UK?
The beginning of April is the best time to start to growing. You can start by potting some of your runner bean seeds in normal compost bought from a garden centre. Planting the seeds under a glass covering such as a green house will give the seeds the best chance to take off and start sprouting.
Mid-End May - You should now have some nice sprouts that have started to grow. The weather in May makes for the optimal time to start planting your runner bean shoots outdoors in your ready prepared soil. When planting the beans you should set them apart by at least 10cm so that they have enough room to grow and can take the needed food assets from the grown below. They should be planted between 5 to 10 centimetres deep.
Cultivation and taking care of your plants
Once your shoots are planted it is important to take good care of your runner beans to ensure that they grow healthily and provide you with a good crop that can picked and enjoyed. In very dry weather you should spread wet straw and old manure at either side of the beans to help keep in the moisture. It's always best to water the runner bean plants early evening, preferably just as the sun is going down. This protects the plants and beans from sun damage and gives them a chance to re-hydrate overnight.
Cultivation Runner beans prefer a position in full sun, although they will tolerate part shade. It's best to ensure that your beans are sheltered from the wind by trees or hedges, as strong winds can damage young leaves and pods or easily blow over the tall, leafy wigwams.
When is the harvest ready for picking?
Your harvest should be ready to pick from August to Mid October. One of the great things about growing runner beans is that the more you pick, the more you will get, so be sure to get picking as much as possible. Regular picking encourages new beans to develop and helps to ensure a continuous crop through to late summer. You should make sure that no pods get old and tough because this will slow the growing of crop down. Once you are all picked out, you can start enjoying the rewards of all your hard work.
A wide selection to choose from
There are a wide selection of runner beans available to choose from. Some of the favourites and most common beans include: Lady Di, Achievement Merit, Enorma-Elite, Firestorm, Polestar runner beans, Red Rum, Saint George, Scarlet Emperor, Snowstorm, White Lady, Wisely Magic, Dwarf, Hestia, Pickwick
Most runner beans are self-pollinating but require bees or other insects to set their bean pods. For some reason warmer than normal night time temperatures result in a poor crop of beans although the production of flowers is not affected. This may be one reason why some gardeners spray their plants in the evening of warm nights - it will have a generally cooling effect.