Once spring is here properly and there’s no chance of frosts overnight, you can sow runner beans and other tender beans directly outdoors. Before you do, have a structure in place that will support the fast growing stems.
The traditional support is a row of 8ft canes crossing about a third of the way up, with a third extending beyond the crossing point. Horizontal canes tied at the crssing point and lower down to keep them in place. Individual bean plants grow up each cane and along the extending part, which makes harvesting easier, and improves cropping.
If you dug a bean trench, filled with kitchen waste earlier in the spring, construct your support over this space. If not, incorporate plenty of compost into the area you’ll be growing into. Push canes down into the soil until they are well anchored – this will be deeper on sandy, light soils than clay.
If you have shorter canes or less space, to grow, use a wigwam formation, with five or six canes pushed into the ground in a circle and tied near the top. This is also the best support to use if you’re growing runner beans in a large container on a patio.
Once your supports are built, you can sow directly into the soil at their base. Create a small hole 5cm deep with a dibber and drop in two seeds. Recover and water well. If both germinate, the weakest can be removed. The seeds are a great delicacy for mice, however, so once sown, pin a square of chicken wire over the spot with tent pegs, or use a wire cloche to protect the spot. Another method is to cut a large pop bottle in half and push each half into the soil over the seed. This acts as a mini greenhouse too if it’s still on the cool side where you are.
GN recommended runner beans
White flowered, producing smooth, dark pods over a long period. Good flavour and recommended for freezing. From Dobies of Devon, tel: 0844 967 0303.
Very high yielding AGM variety, with tender, fleshy, almost stringless pods, and very attrcative pink flowers. From Thompson & Morgan, tel: 0844 573 1818.
An improvement on ‘Scarlet Emperor’, with redf lowers followed by smooth, stringless pods. Vigorous and virus resistant. From Chiltern Seeds, tel: 01491 824675.