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So easy to grow and tastier than shop bought
Member Name: wilykit
Advantages: Easy to grow
Disadvantages: Need regular watering and picking.
If you are thinking about growing your own vegetables, then runner beans are one of the easiest to start off with. Prolific croppers, great tasting and saves you loads of money by not having to buy them from the supermarket.
Most runner beans have red flowers, but I personally like the "white lady" variety which gives white flowers. They are suited to any garden colour scheme. This particular variety is available for £3.69 for 30 seeds. You do not need to sow all of the seeds at once!
Beans love moisture rich composting material. On my allotment, I dig a big trench where they are to be planted, and I fill it with any composting material from the kitchen over the winter months. I then screw up lots of newspaper, and water the trench before filling it back in and planting the beans. This may not be practical in a garden, so I recommend digging in some well rotted horse manure or chicken manure pellets a month before you plant the beans to ensure healthy happy plants.
~~To seed or not to seed? ~~
If starting from seed, you can start them off in a greenhouse/ indoors in April by sowing one seed per small pot filled with general compost. You can also sow direct into the ground after the last frosts have passed. I know that in London this is mid-may but it really depends where you are in the country.
If starting from scratch seems daunting, then you can order plug plants from a variety of online retailers or purchase them from a garden centre from April/ May onwards.
Runner beans will not survive a frost so make sure you look up when the last frosts are expected in your area and plant out accordingly.
Plants kept indoors or in a greenhouse will need to be "hardened" off, which means they need to get used to being outside for short periods of time before being planted outside permanently. Plants can be put outside during the day, and brought back inside/ into the greenhouse during the night for about a week.
~~Where to grow~~
Runner beans are climbing plants, and they can be grown up against a wall or they will need supports. Growing up against a wall is a great use of space. They require a decent amount of sunlight during the day, so don't choose a spot that's too shady.
~~Supporting your beans~~
If growing against a wall, the beans will need something to cling onto, so tie some string across the wall at regular intervals, or hang a pea net up (usually to be found in poundshops).
If you do not have a wall, then you can use bamboo canes, available in garden shops. Buy 6-8foot long canes. There are many different ways to arrange the canes, but the two most popular ways are in a wigwam shape, or in an A-frame shape. It really depends on the size of your plot.
~~Caring for your beans~~
Runner beans need to be watered regularly. I water every second day in really hot and dry weather. They do not need any plant feeds as long as you follow the soil preparation instructions above.
Slugs can be a problem and there are many techniques for dealing with them. My favourite, which I tested this year with success, has been making a moat of used coffee grounds around the beans. Of course, when it rains, this moat gets washed away, so constant application is required. My coffee shop at work bags up used coffee grounds for customers to take for their compost heaps.
Beans can be ready to harvest from June-September dependeing on when you grew them. Don't let your beans get really big as they will get very stringy. When they stop feeling very hairy, that's usually the right time. You can experiment picking them at different sizes to get to know your preference. You need to be on top of picking these beans - every 2-3 days otherwise the plant puts all its energy into growing huge beans, instead of flowering to produce new beans.
As long as you haven't bought a variety that says "F1" on the packet, you will be able to save seeds to grow next year. At the end of the cropping season, leave 5-10 beans on the plant to swell up. As the foliage dies back, harvest the beans, remove the beans from the pod and keep in a cool dark spot until next year.
~~End of season~~
When your beans have finished cropping, don't pull the whole plant out of the ground. Cut them off at soil level. Beans make their own nitrogen nodules at the roots, and this will rot down and provide natural food for whatever you plan to grow in that spot next year. Make sure you take the canes out of the soil over winter to prevent rot and prolong their useful life.
There a so many recopies out there for runner beans. You can boil for 3-4 minutes to eat with your diner, make a curry, chutney, pickle or freeze for later use. The internet has a wealth of information and suggestions if you are experiencing a runner bean glut.
Summary: Runner beans are really easy to grown, and a good way to easing yourself into growing your own. Che