Gardening Tips > April > Runner beans – great for cooking, freezing and creating an ornamental garden display

Runner beans – great for cooking, freezing and creating an ornamental garden display

Last night on the BBC’s Big Allotment Challenge, the contestants runner beans were being scrutinised. If you’ve been inspired to have a go at growing runner beans, here’s our guide:

Runner Beans are one of the easiest crops to grow. They can be sown from seed outside from late May to the end of June and harvested from midsummer. Alternatively, for an earlier crop, sow the beans in 10cm pots indoors at the end of April and plant out at the end of May.

At Perrywood we have a wide variety of runner bean seeds for sale, as well as a number of young plants for you to plant direct into your garden once the early morning frosts are over.

As well as being great for cooking, runner beans will freeze well and have attractive blooms making them a very appealing garden plant.

Soil: Nutrient rich, moisture retentive.

Position: Open, sunny, but sheltered spot (if position is too windy then pollination will be reduced and stability of the support structure will be affected).

Preparation: Before sowing or planting, erect supports for climbing varieties.  Create a double row of canes 45-90cm part and then tie at the top (so they are inwardly facing) and secure with a horizontal cane down the middle. Alternatively, if growing in beds and borders, create a wigwam (consisting of 4 canes) with each cane 25cm apart and secure at the top, this is also the best method when growing in containers. Make a trench along the base of the row or around the wigwam, about a spade’s depth deep. For best results fork lots of well-rotted garden compost into the base. If growing in containers use a loam based compost, and remember to water regularly!

Sow: 5cm deep and 23cm apart.

Care: Loosely tie young plants to the supports so they can begin to climb naturally. Make sure the soil is constantly moist and doesn’t dry out. Mulch the soil in June. Pinch out the growing tips when the plants are about 15cm high to encourage bushier sideshoots. Once the plant has reached the top of the support, remove the growing points. Watch out for slugs and blackfly!

Garden canes and supports for runner beans sold at Perrywood

Garden canes and supports for runner beans sold at Perrywood

Harvest: Runner beans are usually ready for picking 13-17 weeks after planting. Pick pods when tender, before the seeds start to swell. Pick regularly or the plants will stop flowering.

Here at Perrywood we have a wide variety of runner bean seeds to choose from, including:

‘Wisley Magic’ AGM – Red flowered variety producing long, smooth, slender pods that reach 35cm long. Expect high yields!

‘Summer Medley’ – Create a display of red, pink and white flowers with this high yielding blend that combines three separately packaged varieties comprising:

  • ‘Sunset’ – Beautiful salmon pink flowers and particularly early crops of short beans with a fine flavour.
  • ‘Desiree’ – A heavy cropping, white flowered variety, even in dry conditions.
  • ‘Lady Di’ – Scarlet edible-flowered variety, stringless green pods that grow to around 30cm long. Excellent flavour.
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