Runner beans must be UK gardeners all time favourite beans, yet they can be a little temperamental. This is often because hot weather prevents the pollination of flowers needed to produce pods, but usually a drop in temperature will get them going again.
Runner beans like well prepared soil with plenty of garden compost or farmyard manure dug in. Strong support from canes or wooden posts is necessary to withstand the weight of the plants and crop, also to prevent them from falling over in windy weather.
A classic variety producing unusual bi-coloured red and white flowers. Ideal for growing in the flower border.
A white-flowered form that is less prone to having the flowers attacked by birds. White-flowered varieties are supposed to set better in higher temperatures.
A moden white-flowered variety producing long, tender pods. Tolerant of poor weather, it is largely self-setting.
A good runner bean to grow if you want long pods to exhibit in your local show.
Runner beans are sensitive to cold so if doing some early sowings in March or early April, sow into pots or cell trays and keep in the warm. Use a multi-purpose compost and sow four beans to a 10cm (4in) pot or one seed per cell if using the cell trays. Just hold one end of the seed and insert into the compost, scar down, 5cm (2in) deep.
Cover with more compost, water well and place in a propagator or on aw arm windowsill. It will take 7-14 days for the seedlings to emerge. If placing in a propagator, remove as soon as you see the seedlings breaking through the surface. They will stretch and go leggy if left in the heat for too long. Place the pots of seedlings on a greenhouse bench or in a cold frame outside from about mid April.
Choose a sunny spot to grow your beans and after incorporating some garden compost and a sprinkling of chicken manure or Growmore, erect some supports. These can be two rows of 1.8m (6ft) canes crossed and tied at the top or a wigwam effect of five or six canes.
Aim to have canes about 30cm (12in) apart. By late May or early June in colder areas of the country, the beans can be planted out.
Tie the stem to the cane loosely to encourage the bean to grow up that support. It is a good idea to use some sort of slug control at this early stage.
Water the beans in well and keep them well watered adding a general liquid feed once a week. Once the beans reach a decent size start to pick and pick over the crop daily if possible to encourage the plants to keep producing flowers and set fruit. Once the plants get to the tops of their supports the growing tips can be removed to stop them growing further.Enjoy more Kitchen Garden reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.