Try Runner Beans For Bumper Crops

Runner beans growing

by Garden News |

Runner beans are one of the most rewarding and productive crops you can grow, and take up little soil space.

Planted now under glass you'll get sizeable plants to plant out from late May, after the threat of late frost has passed, producing earlier crops than if sown directly, which you can do from mid-May till July.

Recent breeding has focused on durability, improving performance, an ability to self-pollinate, and heightened resistance to rust and leaf spot diseases.

As well as productive, runner beans are decorative, with flowers from scarlet through shell-pink to white, to bi-coloured.

Sow the seeds individually in cells or 7.5cm (2¾in) pots. They'll germinate at over 12C (54F). When they're big enough to handle, pot on seedlings into larger containers. Harden off before planting outdoors on a frame of canes or sweet pea net. If sowing outdoors, plant two seeds per station 30cm (1ft) apart, thinning to one plant.

Beans need a sheltered, warm site with a rich, light soil, plenty of moisture and feeding.

Self-fertile varieties will help pods form, but shaking the plants will ensure this by dislodging pollen. Keep plants moist, particularly when pods are forming, and harvest regularly to ensure more flowers and pods form.


The traditional variety to grow for exhibition. Clusters of long, straight pods to 40cm (16in).

Buy online or tel:01376 570000


British-bred variety with salmon blooms. Sweet pods of good flavour. RHS AGM winner. Rust resistant.

Buy online or tel: 0333 777 3936


First self-fertile variety, setting seed in hot or cool conditions. Stringless, tender pods over a long season.

Buy online or tel: 0333 400 0033

Jackpot mixed

Mix of short (to 50cm/ 20in), self-fertile varieties. Cross between runner and dwarf French beans. Ideal for pots.

Buy online or tel: 0844 326 2200

White Lady

Vigorous high-cropping variety, producing stringless foot-long pods over a long season, even in high temperatures.

Buy online or tel: 0333 400 0033

Step by step

  1. Sow and cover seeds individually or in pairs in a 7.5cm (3in) pot at a temperature of over 12C (54F). Thin out weaker seedling.
  1. Grow plants on and harden off before transferring outdoors in mid to late May. Control greenfly if they become a problem.
  1. Plant in soil rich in organic matter and position against an A or X-frame or tepee of canes spaced 15-30cm (6-12in) apart.
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