Got a spare corner on the allotment? July sowing of runner beans could see you harvesting until the first frosts!
During June and July, the soil is sufficiently warm for direct sowing of the trusty old runner. The traditional way of growing this plot favourite is up a wigwam, made up of 6 or 7 canes. I love growing veg up structures as I think it adds real interest to an allotment, and with their striking red or white flowers, runner beans make for a very attractive plant.
If you’re sowing directly, put a seed on each side of the canes. Don’t worry if both germinate, the plants will interweave as they climb the wigwam. I usually use the tallest canes I can find – 6 to 7 feet tall if possible, as runners are incredibly keen climbers.
A neat tip is to sow some extra seeds in a bunch nearby and use these to replace any that don’t germinate around the wigwam.
If you’re waiting on space, you can also sow your seeds in pots and plant out once they’re a few inches high.
Another option is to try a dwarf cultivar. These are similar to French beans and a good option if space is limited or you’re growing in containers.
Runners need lots of watering, and even more so in containers as the soil will dry out much quicker. Pay special attention to watering when the plants start to flower. This is when everything is setting and the plant needs the most energy.
Runner Bean Trenches
Rich, fertile soil is also very handy when growing runner beans. This can be achieved by digging in manure during wintertime, but many growers create ‘runner bean trench’ to help get a rich growing environment for their runners.
I made one of these when I grew a row of dwarf runner beans, digging a trench a foot deep and a foot wide, and then filling with some well-rotted manure, compost, and kitchen scraps. This will rot down and make sure the runner bean plants get all the nutrients and trace elements, as well as help to keep moisture around the roots.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, I added some more bits and bobs from the kitchen, as well as some chopped up veg plants I’d removed, before topping the trench up with soil. I did this in mid-winter, but Spring is fine. Just make sure you create the trench at least a fortnight before planting.
And once those tasty beans start appearing, remember that harvesting is important! As silly as it sounds, I often neglect this process and don’t always get my veg when at its very best. Runner beans can get very stringy if left too big, so try picking them young and tender. About 13 – 15 cm is perfect.
Keep picking too. Runners need to be regularly harvested to encourage new bean growth.