Simple Step by Step Guide
Runner beans are delicious, nutritious and easy to grow. They are best picked young, when they have great flavour, texture and succulence. A great starter vegetable for children, the seeds are large, tactile and easy to plant – and once the beans are ready to harvest, they are easily picked off the plant and eaten there and then. Yum! Share your gardening photos with us using #UlulaGrows, we’d love to see your plant progress 🌱.
How to Grow Runner Beans
To grow runner beans you need soil, bamboo canes or similar support, and some twine. Sow the seeds direct in the ground or a large pot filled with soil or compost in a sunny spot. Sow the seeds 5cm deep and 15cm apart during early June (after the last frost) for harvesting at the end of July – August. Beans are thirsty so keep them well watered, especially when in flower. Mulching the soil surface can also help to lock in moisture.
Runner beans need a strong support, such as a wigwam, to climb up as they can grow up to 3m tall. 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 loosely to the canes.
Runner beans are ready to pick around 12 weeks after sowing. The bean pods are at their most tender at 15-20cm long – any longer and they can become tough and stringy. Regular picking encourages the plants to produce more flowers, and therefore more young beans.
|Runner Bean||plant out in June, eat end of July/August|
Slugs & Snails
Be careful, as slugs and snails like to eat the new shoots. You may like to protect your runner bean seedlings by cutting the top off a plastic bottle and placing it over them, until they look strong enough to fend off attacks!
Other options for slug control include nematodes, garlic spray, beer traps, wool pellets, grit or broken up eggshells, or for those hardy souls – going out at night with a torch and picking them off by hand!
How to Plant the Seeds
At this time of year, runner beans can be planted directly into the soil or a large pot. (Runner beans are tender though so make sure all chance of frost has passed.) Choose a warm sunny spot for them, in soil enriched with compost if possible.
Sowing indoors in early May: Toilet roll inners are great for sowing runner bean seeds in as they are tall, which gives the roots plenty of room to grow, and will degrade when planted in the soil. Sow one seed per inner which has been filled with potting compost. You can also use a pot filled with compost, (plus a saucer, plate or tray for them to sit on).
Plant the seeds at a depth of around 5cm, cover with compost and water well. Keep on a sunny windowsill and keep well water.
Put you tray or plate on a windowsill which is not too warm, keep the compost nicely moist (plants need to drink just like we do) – it will need checking every day – and remember to speak words of encouragement, or even better sing to your seeds to help them grow. You should see your seedlings start to emerge within a couple of weeks!
Runner beans are tender plants that won’t survive frost. Harden off young plants, to acclimatise them to outdoor conditions by placing them outdoors in a sheltered position during the day and bringing them back indoors at night, but wait to plant them out until all risk of frost has passed, usually in late May/early June.
Lolly pop sticks make excellent plant labels. Save them up over the summer for use next spring. You can also use old yogurt pots or cream pots cut into strips, but be careful of sharp edges.