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Runner Beans - Super Easy to Grow and Super Tasty
Member Name: houseofberries
Advantages: Easy to grow, germinate quickly, excess can be frozen
Disadvantages: None for me
**What you'll need**
Beans to plant
Good sized vegetable bed or a large pot
Canes, poles or long sticks to grow the beans up
String to tie the poles together or a plastic disc wigwam maker that you can slot the poles into (to make a wigwam shape)
Bean 'seeds' can be bought from Homebase, B&Q, 99p Stores and Poundland to name a few. Also available on Ebay. Poles to grow the beans up can be bought from DIY Stores like Homebase, as can the canes. If you're on a budget you could try foraging in a wood for nice long sticks. They need to be around 8ft. If you want to go really self sufficient you could always try growing bamboo (make sure you keep it in a pot - this stuff spreads). When it gets growing cut canes off and leave to dry.
Our neighbours planted a bamboo plant in their garden years ago - not in a pot. It's spread into our hedge, actually I don't really mind, I take cuttings off it regularly and have a good supply of canes, as do my family. I wouldn't recommend putting it straight in the ground, it does try and take over.
**Deciding how to grow**
If you're growing the beans in a pot, you'll probably want to make a wigwam shape with your canes. The pot needs good drainage so the beans don't become waterlogged. The advantage of a pot is that it makes it harder for slugs to attack the plants. You can also do this straight in the ground. If you have more room, you can always grow them in a long line, putting two canes up against each other in a triangle and repeating, using one cane to go along the middle. You'll need lots of string to tie them all together.
Runner beans enjoy a sunny patch in the garden, which is worth considering when setting up an area to grow.
**Getting the plants going**
This is one plant I love involving my boys with, they germinate quickly so they don't get fed up caring for a non responsive plant for weeks on end.
You can either plant the beans straight into the ground or grow in pots inside/in a greenhouse to get them started. I usually grow indoors, when I'm 100% sure the frosts have gone I start them off in little pots with 1 or 2 beans in each (depending on the space I have on the window sills). Each bean should be placed in potting compost about 4cms down into the pot. Keep well watered and watch the beans quickly appear.
If you've been growing these inside or in a greenhouse, they'll need to be hardened off. Put the plants outside for a few hours each day in the sun, working up to full days. They'll start to get tall quite quickly. After a week or two of hardening off, you can then plant them into the soil. Plant each plant near a cane, so it can easily find it to climb up. You can plant two plants per cane if you like.
**Caring for the beans**
They don't need much attention, regular watering in dry spells is needed. Pests can include slugs and snails - if you want you can use slug pellets or lay beer traps if they become a problem. I just keep an eye in the evenings and pull off any snails seen on the plants.
The plants will produce red or white flowers depending on the variety of bean, some birds find these attractive to peck at. Some people tie carrier bags on the tops of the canes to try and deter them. One year when it was a massive problem I purchased some plastic bunting and strung it across the top. It did help deter the birds.
When the beans start coming, they taste nicest when they're not too big, regular picking promotes more growth on the plants.
Runner beans are easy to prepare. You'll need a bean slicer that costs pennies from most supermarkets. Simply snap off the top and bottom of the bean, then push through the bean slicer. Remove the sides - these can taste a little stringy. Then boil for around 10 minutes according to how soft you like the beans.
They don't keep very well as they are, after a few days of being picked, they go a little soft and this makes it hard to push through the bean slice. So I'd highly recommend preparing them and blanching/freezing as it the beginning of this article if you're not going to use them for a while.
I love these with a roast on a Sunday, they taste really nice with the gravy.
**Getting ready for next year**
At the end of the growing season, I keep some of the bigger beans and leave them to dry in a paper bag or paper envelope. That way you can save on buying seeds again next year. The canes, poles or sticks used can also be kept for the following year.
Summary: Great tasting beans, fresh from your garden