Growing Runner Beans ~ Bamboo Frames

Runner beans are easy to grow and will produce lots fresh vegetables, and the more you pick the more the plant will grow. This isn’t a definitive guide on how to grow the perfect runner bean, but it’s a good place to start and it works for me, year after year.

Start off by sowing the runner bean seed in a homemade paper plantpot which can then be planted out without disturbing the roots when the bean starts to grow. Click on the link if you want to see how to make homemade paper plant pots. It saves you money on platic pots, which don’t decompose, and recycles old newsapers.

Once you’ve made your paper pot, fill it up with compost, pop in the seed as per the instructions on the seed packet, and give it some water. Depending on how much space you have for runner beans, make up the number of pots needed, and then add a few more in case some don’t make it or are eaten by slugs. If you end up with too many, give them to a neighbour.Keep them in a greenhouse or propogator until they are a couple of inches high. You can plant the seeds directly into the ground, but starting them off in pots means that you can use your plot for something else while the seeds are growing.

Once the runner beans have grown to a couple of inches high, it’s time to plant them out into the ground. As the plants grow, they’ll need to be supported, and the easist way to do this is with bamboo canes. So before you plant the runner beans, it’s time to release you inner Boy Scout and get building. The exact arrangement is up to you and how much space you have, but you can either have a line of ‘A frames’ along your plot or if you have less space, go for a teepee construction. The A frame is just a pair of canes put in the ground at either side of your allotment bed tied together at the top. Once you’ve got the pairs tied up, join them all together with more canes along the ridge. The teepee version is a circle of bamboo canes all tied together at the top.

You’ll need a sturdy construction if you want your beans to survive any high winds. Once the beans have fully grown, you have basically constructed a wind break, so if your canes are too flimsy or your knots aren’t up to scraatch then you’ll probably end up with a collapse when the first decent gust comes along. Save yourself the heartache of losing a crop for the sake of a few extra knots and pieces of cane. We go for the tepee construction as there is space for the wind to get through.

Once your magnificent structure is in place,  plant a runner bean next to each bamboo cane and water it in. To give the runner beans the best start in life and the highest chance of survival, I like to put a plastic coke bottle with the end chopped off over the small plants for a week or two. This also works well if the seed is planted directly into the soil. The coke bottle acts as a mini greenhouse and also keeps the wind off them, as well as keeping slugs and pigeons away until the plant is established. Remember to take the cap off, otherwise you’ll cook the young runner bean plants! Keep them watered especially if it gets really hot.

Another quick tip to help on the watering front is to create an irrigation ditch while you’re building your frame. If you’ve gone for the A frame, them create a channel down the middle of the frame, and if you’ve a built a teepee frame, a pool in the middle is what you need. The problem with watering is that once you’ve poured a certain amount in, the water will run off and onto the path, away from your vegetables. and the problem gets worse over the years as you build up the levels with manure and composted waste. The solution is to keep the water where it’s needed with a well built channel. I’m not talking about the Hoover dam, just deep enough to hold the water back while it soaks in where you need it. If you’re growing on a small scale, you can also use an upside down coke bottle to slowly let the water seep in. Cut the 2ltr bottle in half, take of the lid, stick the neck into the ground, and add water! You have created a ‘drip feed’ watering system from something that gets thrown out every day.

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