Sunday 22 July 2012

We have Runners...

If I had to nominate my favourite vegetable, I reckon that Runner Beans would be a strong contender. They are a crop that I grow every year. So do 99% of all Allotment holders in the UK, apparently, judging by the masses of them I see from the train on my journeys to and from London.

My 14 plants are covered with scarlet flowers:

Close inspection reveals that many tiny bean pods are also forming:

In some years pod-formation (or flower set) can be poor, which is influenced by a number of factors including moisture levels. When the weather is hot and dry you are supposed to spray your plants with a fine mist of water. No such requirement this year! Runner Beans also like lots of moisture (and preferably shade) at the roots, so I often end up watering them every day, but I have only had to do that once so far this year, way back at the end of May. If you're planning to grow Runners for the first time next year, my advice is to choose somewhere with moisture-retentive soil - either naturally or artificially. It's a good idea to incorporate lots of bulky organic matter for this reason. Some people dig a planting-trench at about Christmas-time and gradually fill it up with vegetable peelings from the kitchen over the next few months, and then cover the trench with soil shortly before planting the young beans after the danger of frost has passed. I don't use this method myself, but I do try to dig-in a fair bit of home-made compost a few weeks before planting.

These tiny pods will grow rapidly now, and I expect to be harvesting the first of them in a couple of weeks' time.

Elsewhere in the garden, there are beans of several different sorts. In a big tub over by the brick wall I have a wigwam of bamboo canes supporting Climbing French Beans "Cobra" and a few of  "Mechelse Tros" (aka Mushy Pea bean).

All the plants in that tub look yellow and sickly. I think they are just not getting enough light. I probably won't grow beans there again next year.

The Mechelse Tros have plain white flowers like this:

And Cobra has pale mauve ones:

I have several pots of Dwarf French Beans, dotted about wherever there is space:

The plant with the paler foliage in that photo above is "Polka", which produces yellow pods, like this:

There are also the "Cherokee Trail of Tears" beans, of course, in the Three Sisters bed:

That's their wigwam in the centre, with Broad Beans at the left of the picture, and Runner Beans to the right.

This is a Cherokee flower. Very beautiful, I think.

So you see, my garden is full of beans!


  1. One thing about runner beans is that you don't need lots of space in order to get a decent crops and they also look attractive in an ornamental border.

  2. Lucky you, I hope mine wont be too far behind.

  3. The last two years I grew runner beans and the harvests wee minimal. We have just been too hot recently. It used to be that runner beans were more prolific here than regular beans. Not any more it seems.

  4. Your runner beans look really impressive and fantastic. Mine mostly look very sickly. They were healthy and happy until I planted them out and they haven't really recovered.

  5. That first shot is spectacular! My beans in pots are doing very poorly, and the climbers in the beds are just blooming now. Hopefully we get something.

  6. I too love the first shot - the scarlet runners look sensational. I tried to grow them last year but they failed to set pods - from what you've written I'm now thinking they were too dry. I will be interested to see if they come up again this year - I planted a perennial variety.

  7. Agree with everyone else - that first picture is amazing! This is the second year I have grown runner beans - I seem to have a lot more flowers/pods than I did last year, and I can only put this down to the wetter weather as they were planted in a trough in the same way that they were the year before.

  8. I may do runner beans again next year. I usually had good luck with them. The one that failed me were scarlet runner beans. I grew them one year and they grew really well, just never flowered.

  9. Funnily enough the scarlet runners are being eaten more by slugs than the pink, bi-coloured or white - but even so they are not doing terribly well, although one or two beans have formed - doubt if there will be much of a glut this year.

  10. Glad to see I am not the only one that likes variety!! I am having good luck with beans....but had to pick alot of slugs...I grew broad beans in a raised container this year and got about 3 batches...will try in autumn to have them earlier..(but they mention october for june harvest...but I grew them in March and got end of June I am confused....) Any advice on broads are appreciated :)


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