Go Organic: The only way is up with runner beansBy James Ashford
April 27, 2012
Runner beans have not always been top of my wish-list for the vegetable plot.
I used to prefer the taste and texture of their fancy French cousins.
But as I get older I’ve come to appreciate our traditional English garden bean-of-choice for its practical as well as its culinary virtues.
Runner beans grow upwards, which means they take up very little space in the garden in return for the crop they yield.
And if you grow the right variety and grow them well they can be every bit as delicious as their flibbertigibbet French counterparts.
They are both members of the Fabaceae family, which means they attract bacteria in nodules at their roots which perform the rather neat trick of fixing nitrogen from the air to help to feed the plants.
Runner beans can be fantastically productive and were often grown more to keep hungry families fed than for their taste, so do some research and choose your variety wisely.
They also need lots of water if they are to grow well.
If this summer turns out to be as dry as predicted that means either a lot of hard work with the watering can or some sound preparation before planting.
Digging in plenty of bulky organic material into your bean patch before you plant will help to retain water in the soil to keep your beans tasting sweet.
Runner beans are very tender plants and even the slightest frost can kill them so don’t be tempted to sow them too early.
You can start them in pots in an unheated greenhouse or you can sow the seed straight into the soil once it has warmed up a little.
When the plants are tiny they will benefit from protection from slugs and snails but they soon grow their way up and out of danger. Aphids too can be a problem if their numbers get out of control later in the season.
If your runners get too big they can become quite tough so pick your beans often and early to keep them productive and enjoy them at their best.