Runner beans are such an easy vegetable to grow in the garden and a great one to do with the children. They are extremely rewarding and will certainly give a good crop if the conditions are right. What we also love about runner beans is that children can pick them and put them straight on the plate (after cooking of course!) One of the most difficult elements of growing runner beans is building a wigwam but this shouldn’t put you off as this is actually rather simple.
Sow between: Sowing indoors: April to May Sowing outdoors: May – June
If sowing indoors, you will need to plant out in June once the frosts have past.
What you will need: Seeds, compost, canes (6ft minimum), containers (if growing them in containers)
Where does it grow: You can grow runner beans either directly in the ground or in containers if you are short for space. The beans will perform equally well in both.
Likes: Runner beans are not that fussy with where they are situated but they best perform in a sunny position that is not open to the wind. Because they will grow into large plants as they are heavy cropping, they will appreciate a deep, fertile soil that ideally has been mixed with manure before hand.
Difficulty of growing: Easy – Just ensure that you have the equipment to build the wigwam and that the soil is suitable for the beans. Ensure that they are watered regularly and mulch is placed around the base so that they can retain moisture.
Growing runner beans in the ground
Growing runner beans in the ground is actually rather simple. They are an extremely forgiving vegetable and can be planted directly into the ground. To be safe, you should be looking to plant out in June, so that there is no risk of frost affecting the plant. However, experience dictates that the end of May should ensure that by the time the seed has germinated, the frosts will have past.
In terms of the seeds, you will want to ensure that they are 5cm deep into the soil and approximately 25cm apart, this will ensure they have plenty of space to grow. If you are planting them in rows, allow 60cm between each one.
Growing runner beans in containers
Runner beans are also quite happy growing in containers or large pots if space is a problem. You may also want to grow in containers if you want to create a feature on a patio or a child friendly area of the garden. It also allows you to move them around should you have the need When in flower, these will look stunning before they begin producing crop.
Harvesting runner beans
If planting in line with the timings above, you will be able to harvest in July when the pods have reached approximately 20cm in length. From this point in time, the harvest should be pretty much constant and you will need to pick them every 2 to 3 days to ensure that they don’t get too large. If they do, they can become tough and stringy. Just ensure you keep picking as this will encourage further growth for as long as there are flowers.
This is also a great opportunity to get the children involved. If you have young children, they may need some assistance in picking the beans, especially if they are up high. Older children should be able to reach the taller beans. Being able to pick vegetables, such as beans, and put them straight on the plate, really is such a learning experience and exactly what growing vegetables is all about.
Pests with runner beans
One of the main pests with runner beans is black fly, in particular the black bean aphid. They will generally present themselves somewhere between April and August if they are going to come at all.
You will want to ensure that the amount of black fly is controlled on your runner beans and this could mean removing them by hand. Natural remedies would be ladybirds.
Other pests that can also cause harm to your runner beans are slugs and snails. This is more likely to affect your crop if you are planting them in the ground. Simple slug and snail pellets will be able to keep this under control. However, if you are planting them in containers, they are at less risk of being harmed by this pest.
How can children get involved in the growing of runner beans?
Children are able to get involved at many stages of growing your own runner beans. When growing them in the ground, they will be able to help with digging over the ground and getting it ready to sow the seeds or to plant them out in June. If you are growing them in containers, then filling them up with compost is going to be great fun.
If you are sowing them indoors, or in the greenhouse, then children can almost certainly get involve in sowing them. This is especially the case with runner beans because the seeds are a great size for children young and old. Planting them singular in small pots (10cm) will be perfect to watch them grow. As well as growing them for the garden, you can also try growing them in a glass to show children how beans grow. Check out our other post on showing children plant growth.