HOW TO CARE FOR RUNNER BEANS
Runner Beans are extremely easy to care for and make an ideal vegetable for novice and experienced gardeners to grow. Providing support for the runner beans to climb up is one of the primary tasks. Strange though it may seem, runner beans are programmed by nature to twist up poles, stems and similar items. They are not programmed to grow up netting and don't do very well when netting is their only support. When starting them off remember that they are also programmed to spiral up the poles in a clockwise direction (when viewed from below). If you try and twist them round support in the other direction they will try to untwist themselves!
SUPPORTING RUNNER BEANS
There is a rumour going round that what happens in the Northern Hemisphere (where the UK is) is not necessarily what happens in the Southern Hemisphere, for instance Australia, as far as runner beans are concerned. Well I can confirm from personal experience that runner beans twist and grow in exactly the same direction (clockwise when viewed from below) there as well. They do exactly the same wherever you are in world.
We described on the previous page some of the common shapes for supporting runner beans. In most cases the tendrils of the bean plants attach to bamboo canes of their own accord and entwine themselves around them. Occasionally they do need some help and gently tying them to the canes will do the job.
WATERING, FEEDING AND CARE OF RUNNER BEANS
Runner bean plants need lots of water, one look at the amount of foliage per plant will tell you that. If the weather becomes dry water them once a week with lots and lots of water. Weed around the base of the plant to reduce competition from weeds. In early July when the plants have established themselves a good mulch with well-rotted organic matter will conserve water, reduce weeds and provide some body to the soil when it is dug in at the end of the year. A layer of mulch 3cm / 1½ deep is not too much, 5cm / 2in is even better.
The actual runner beans will begin to appear late June to mid-July but this is very dependent on the variety grown, the weather conditions in your area of the UK and when you managed to plant them out. For example we live near Warwick, an area just slightly cooler than average in the UK, and the variety we grew was Lady Di. The first signs we saw of small runner beans was on on July 9th.
The next best thing you can do to your runner bean plant is to harvest very frequently. Many people end up with a glut of runner beans but it would be better if they picked the beans when they were immature, say about 17cm / 7in long.
This would reduce the harvest at any one point in time but the young beans are the tastiest of all and the time of harvest will be extended. The rule with runner beans is to pick them young even if you cannot eat them. Unused ones can be put on the compost heap.
Harvest the beans using a pair of scissors to avoid damaging the stem by pulling on the plant. They will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days although are always best eaten on the day of harvest. Click here for some of our favourite recipes for runner beans.
NEXT PAGE – RECOMMENDED VARIETIES OF RUNNER BEANS
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