Growing runner beans

Posted: Monday 3 September 2012
by Adam Pasco

My runner beans have been cropping well for a few weeks now, and aren't just doing well because they have the right weather conditions to flourish.

Close-up of a gardener checking runner beans

When it comes to beans I always hedge my bets. French beans crop well in a hot summer, while runner beans prefer it cool and wet, so when planning my seed sowing in April and May I'll plan to sow some of each. That way, no matter what the British summer throws at us I'll be guaranteed some tasty beans.

For the past couple of years it's bean the French beans that have earned their space, but this year our traditional runner bean has come good.

In some ways I'd rather they hadn't, but only in respect of the endless rounds of rainfall they've enjoyed. Actually, I've been quite grateful for recent downfalls as they've saved me several hours of watering, but those holding outdoor events probably aren't as thankful.

My runner beans have been cropping well for a few weeks now, and aren't just doing well because they have the right weather conditions to flourish. No, I'm growing several new varieties that are almost guaranteed to do well because they are self-fertile.

'Moonlight' was the first to be developed, a white flowered variety that was self-fertile. This meant it no longer needed bees to transfer pollen from other nearby beans in order to set a good crop. This is now joined by 'Firestorm', the first self-fertile scarlet-flowered runner bean. Both started cropping well for me a couple of weeks ago, but I've yet to decide which tastes and performs best.

Lack of pollinating bees in some areas may be contributing to poor bean set, so anyone suffering will do well to consider choosing self-fertile varieties in future. It's also worth ensuring beans never go short of moisture at the roots. Plants will have twined their way to the top of supports by now, and their lush foliage acts as an umbrella, keeping rainfall away from the soil beneath wigwams.

Give the soil round beans a good drench at least once or twice a week to help new flowers set, and a good crop of tender, stringless beans develop.

Also, make sure you don't miss any beans, as these pods will grow old and set seed. Allowing this to happen can trigger a response in plants to stop producing further flowers. Be vigilant, harvesting regularly, and picking off and discarding old beans rather than leaving them on the plant. With a little care and attention runner beans can continue cropping until the end of September.

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Abelia2 06/09/2012 at 11:36

My crop has been superb this year. It must be all the rain! I do hope they keep cropping well into autumn, so will follow your advice.

Zoomer44 06/09/2012 at 22:20

I've had an excellent crop of runner beans, some days picking far more than could be eaten so there's a store in the freezer now. I'm still picking alot but down to picking every other day now.

Interesting what you say about french beans, I tried four varieties this year for the first time and have been pleased with their crop, they're still going strong and knowing they do better in a hot summer means I'll be growing them again as mine have done well despite all the rain.

Maud is in the garden 07/09/2012 at 10:04

My freezer is full with runner beans and there is still more to pick. Its certainly been (ha ha) a good year fot them. Have no more than a handful of french beans but that maybe because i planted borlotti beans instead, my fault. The rain gave them a good start and saved my back but not trailng backwards and forwards to water tank at allotment. It will be lovely to be eating them all through the winter.

smada_1 14/09/2012 at 12:41

How is the best way to freeze runner beans? Mike

Dovefromabove 14/09/2012 at 12:46

If you're going to use then within a few weeks just prepare them as you would for the table, then bag, excluding as much air as possible, and freeze in the sort of amounts you will use for each meal.

If you want them to keep well for more than a few weeks, then prepare as you would for the table, blanch in boiling water for 45 secs - 1 min, cool immediately in chilled water then drain and bag and freeze as above.

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