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Growing fruit and vegetables at home or in an allotment is a rewarding experience, with a range of foods easily grown. One commonly grown vegetable are runner beans, which are delicate and need to be planted at a specific time or else become susceptible to frost.
Runner beans are a climbing plant and are relatively easy to grow.
They don’t need a large area, with a big yield able to grow in a small space.
The plants also look lovely, with red or white flowers.
So how do you grow runner beans, when should you plant them out?
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Runner beans will not survive cold and frosty conditions so need to be first planted in a greenhouse or indoors.
First start runner beans off on a windowsill or in a propagator, in late April or May.
You should sow one bean per small pot, 5cm (2in) deep.
As they begin to grow, harden off young plants by acclimatising them to outdoor conditions.
You can do this by sitting them outdoors during the day, but placing them indoors overnight until conditions warm up.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) advises to plant out runner beans in late May or June after the last frost.
Place the pots in a cold frame or sheltered position.
Then, when the plants reach 8cm (3 inches) tall, plant them into their final positions.
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They need a sunny, warm spot in soil which drains well.
Make sure to place well-rotted manure across the area, using a rake to comb it through before planting.
You will also need to make sure your runner beans have a support system in order to grow.
Usually, this is using inward sloping bamboo canes around 8ft tall – tied at the top to a horizontal frame.
You can also use a wigwam if your space is small.
Once you have your support in place, the RHS advises you “loosely tie the plants to their supports after planting”.
This will help them to climb naturally.
When it comes to harvesting, do so when the pods are 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) long, and certainly, before the beans inside begin to swell.
When growing runner beans, it is vital you pick regularly to prevent any pods from reaching maturity.
Once this happens, plants will stop flowering and no more pods will be set. If you pick regularly, plants will crop for eight weeks or more.
One issue with runner beans could be they fail to produce pods after they have flowered – which can be down to several factors.
The RHS advises for runner beans not producing pods –
Ensure the soil is constantly moist and doesn’t dry out. Add mulch after planting and water regularly and generously, ideally in the evenings.
The flower set is better in alkaline, chalky soils. If your soil is neutral or acidic, try applying lime.
If this is a recurring problem and you live in a mild area, try growing beans with some French bean parentage, which set pods more easily in warmer summers.
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