Runner beans are a great crop for small spaces: just grow them upwards in fun frames and teepees! They can also put on stunning floral displays. Best of all, it's not too late to grow them
How To Grow Runner Beans
Runner beans are a popular vegetable staple for good reason – they are versatile, reliable cropping plants, and a striking garden features with prolific petals and heart-shaped leaves curling around crafty frames and supports.
Many bean growers will have been sowing from seed indoors as far back as April so they are ready to harvest in July. Still, the beauty of runner beans is that several varieties produce the goods well into autumn if you decided to start them off a bit later in the year.
Planting out and sowing direct
Runner beans are a cool-season crop and can grow even if the weather isn’t firing on all cylinders (although they are vulnerable in frosts and windy spots). If you have started them indoors, you can plant out pot-raised runners in June after starting them off under glass.
Alternatively, you can sow quite a few varieties direct in the ground in late June and July if you select a sunny spot in well-drained soil; just be sure to check the instructions on the seed packet to make sure you’re good to grow.
“Choose somewhere sheltered, which helps to attract pollinating bees, or erect windbreak material,” says fruit and veg expert Lucy Chamberlain. “Allowing the plants to develop an extensive root system in deep, moist soil before flowers begin to develop is key to success.”
Lucy also recommends a regular high-nitrogen liquid feed to boost yields.
Pick the best support
Make sure your supports are in place before planting or sowing out, as they are vigorous climbers. Choose bamboo canes or hazel sticks. Try A-frame, wigwam or X-shape, or experiment with a dream-catcher style!
As shoots near the tops of their supports, pinch out to prevent plants becoming top-heavy, Don’t forget to water well, especially when buds start to appear. Harvest when young, pick frequently, and enjoy a long summer of runners!
See Ruth’s tips on runners by visiting the AG blog.
Prepare your bed for runner beans
Follow Lucy’s tips below to give runners the best start outdoors
Dig deep: In order to develop an extensive root system – which helps with drought tolerance – your runners need an open soil. Break up any compaction by digging over the plot to a depth of at least 12in (30cm).
Add organic matter: Well-rotted farmyard manure is ideal. It consists of bulky organic matter, which reduces waterlogging on heavy soils and makes light types more moisture-retentive. It also contains nitrogen for leaf and pod growth.
Water well: A mature plant can have a leaf surface area of 6½ft2(2m2). Swelling pods increase moisture demands further, so ensure plants are well watered once flowering begins, andadd moisture-retaining bark mulches.
Top of the crops
Three of our favourite runner beans
A self-fertile runner with French bean in its breeding. This AGM winner sets better crops in inclement and hot weather than standard types, with plump pods and a sweet flavour. Buy seeds from Dobies.co.uk.
This runner-French bean cross is naturally compact, so it’s ideal for large tubs. High-yielding for a dwarf variety, due to its extended cropping season. Seeds available at Kings Seeds.
Red-flowered, high yielding, and bearing tender, stringlesspods. This early-maturing benchmark variety is still considered worthy of an RHS AGM. Try Moreveg.co.uk for seeds.
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