Harvesting runner beans

Runner beans – Grow Guide

Runner beans are easy to grow – find out how with the help of this practical guide.

Overview

Decorative and productive, runner beans are one of those sow-and-watch-it-grow crops. When picked young, they have great flavour, texture and succulence – so different from the stringy, ‘warped cricket bat’ beans you find in the shops. They’re also pretty enough to grow as an annual climber in the flower border.
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sow
Sow
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Plant
Plant
Yes
Yes
Harvest
Harvest
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Spacing: 20cm apart 60cm between rows

Depth: 5cm

Avg yield: 6kg per3m row

Growing runner beans from seed

Sowing and planting runner beans

Runner beans need a sunny spot in rich, moisture-retentive soil with plenty of well-rotted compost or manure added. Ideally you'll have done this the previous winter, but if not, you can can get away with digging it in just before you start planting.

By sowing outdoors in April, in deep pots, you'll get better germination and earlier harvests. The seedlings will also be out of reach of slugs. Well-developed seedlings can be planted out after the last frost, usually around late May. You can make later sowings outside in May and June, but these won't start cropping until July or August.

If space is limited, grow runner beans in containers for an attractive and edible display – try 'Painted Lady', with its pretty red and white flowers. Add a wigwam of canes for support.

When growing in pots, it's especially important to keep plants well watered. Choose as large a container as possible to help stop the compost drying out too quickly. Add a thick layer of mulch to the compost surface to hold in moisture, and on hot days move the pot out of direct sun if possible.

Tending the crop

Runner beans need a strong support, such a wigwam. When they reach the tops of the canes, pinch out the growing tip of each plant to stop them getting overly tall. Beans are thirsty plants so water regularly, especially when in flower, and mulch the soil surface to hold in moisture.

Harvesting runner beans

Runner beans are ready to pick after 12 to 16 weeks. At 15-20cm long, pods will be at their most tender without being stringy. Regular picking encourages the plants to produce more young beans.

Storing runner beans

Runner beans freeze well. Top and tail them and remove any ‘string’. Slice beans into short lengths, blanch in boiling water for two minutes, drain, cool, pop into plastic bags and freeze.

Preparation and uses

See above for how best to prepare runner beans. They're delicious lightly steamed with a knob of butter. Cold, cooked beans are good in salads. Never eat them raw.

Troubleshooting

Place copper rings around the stems of young plants or cover the soil with crushed eggshells or other similar dry, gritty material to deter slugs and snails.

Make a bean wigwam

Use four or more canes, up to 3m long, and push the end of each one firmly into the soil in a circle, spacing them evenly. Tie all the tops of the canes together to form a wigwam. Then plant one runner bean at the base of each cane. As the plants grow, help them to get a good grip by tying new shoots to the canes.

Runner beans varieties to try

  • ‘Armstrong’ – heavy cropper of long string-free pods with a great flavour
  • ‘Celebration’ – the pretty pink flowers are followed by plenty of straight, tender, great-tasting pods
  • ‘Lady Di’ – a generous cropper with long, slender, stringless pods. Plants are tolerant of hot weather
  • ‘Mergoles’ – produces abundant, long, fleshy pods that taste delicious
  • ‘Painted Lady’ – an old favourite, with attractive red-and-white flowers and plentiful, well-flavoured beans. Less vigorous than many modern varieties

Related content

Carrots – Grow Guide

Courgettes – Grow Guide

French beans – Grow Guide

Lettuces – Grow Guide

Related offers

Offer

Save 25% on fruit trees

Save 25 per cent on all fruit trees at Blooming Direct. Choose from apples, pears, plums and much more - the discount is automatically applied. Offer ends at midnight on Monday 16 October, 2017.

Use code: RGWWEB131

Order now

Offer

Wheelbarrow - save £50

Buy this sturdy wheelbarrow for just £49.99 (normally £99.99) at Clifford James. It has plenty of capacity and with its weight balanced over two wheels, it's easy to move around with one or both hands.

Order now

Offer

Autumn planting garlic

Garlic is easy to grow, and autumn is the best time to plant it. Choose from a special selection at DT Brown, including a saver collection which comprises three different types for just £10.85 (saving £5). Plus, save £2 on postage when you enter our offer code.

Use code: GWD17G

Order now