Which Way Do Runner Beans Climb?

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Which Way Do Runner Beans Climb?

Runner beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden or on an allotment – and they grow in the same direction as the canes you use to lash the plants and steer the climbers upwards as your plants mature.

One of the benefits of growing runner beans is that they provide an ongoing supply of veggies, unlike some plants, which are far more challenging to grow, and flower just once per year.

You can opt for dwarf runner beans for smaller veg plots or standard runner beans for full-size plants.

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How to Sow Runner Bean Plants

The best time to sow runner beans is in the late spring if you start with seedling pots indoors. Runner beans are fine to plant outdoors during the early summer when the weather is warmer overnight.

Although established runner beans are quite hardy, they will not cope with any frost when they are young, so it is normally better to start growing inside and transfer the plants into the ground later.

It's best to place your young runner beans on a windowsill or in a greenhouse, using a normal multi-purpose compost and sowing one bean right in the middle of the pot, around five cm beneath the surface.

Runner beans thrive in warm, bright conditions with temperatures above 12 °C; if you keep up with regular watering, they will grow very quickly.

You will need canes or supports to help your runner beans grow in the right direction – the plants grow upward and therefore take up a minimal amount of space in an allotment or garden veg plot while producing a large crop.

Transferring Runner Beans Into the Ground

When the summer arrives, you can move your runner beans outside, and they grow well with full sunlight and in fertilised soil. You can add soil treatments to the ground a couple of weeks before replanting your beans.

Seeds should be around 15 cm apart and the same five cm depth – they don't need a huge amount of space, but you want a little distance to ensure the plant roots aren't hampered and the growing climbers do not become tangled.

Each plant will need a cane or stake to grow against and help the plant grow upward in the right direction. The plant will droop and fail if you don't use stakes, bamboo sticks or another support.

How to Stake Runner Beans

You can use many potential supports and stakes to help your runner beans grow tall and strong. One option is to create a double support or a wigwam shape with bamboo canes, lashing them together with twine and anchoring the canes into the soil.

Although you must tie the runner bean plant to the cane, the string or twine should not be too tight – if the plant is tied very tightly, it can damage the plant and prevent growth.

As your runner beans become larger, you will need to keep moving the points at which they are tired to the canes and adding extra ties for bigger, taller plants – they climb naturally, but good support will stop the plant from becoming too top-heavy and drooping downward.

Maintaining Runner Bean Plants

Runner beans need plenty of watering, particularly during drier, hotter weather. Most gardeners recommend watering them at least every three to four days and more often if your plants are in containers.

The plants also benefit from compost spread over the top of the soil – this retains moisture and adds valuable nutrients to the ground for optimal growth.

You should add mulch around June or July, depending on the variety of runner beans you are growing, weather conditions and how long your plants have been growing outdoors. If the weather is a little cooler, you might find that your veggies produce beans a little later.

Most runner bean plants have the first crop from late June to mid-July, and the best time to pick them is when the beans are smaller and crunchier – this encourages further growth and avoids a huge glut of bigger beans later in the season.

Runner Bean Spirals

While runner bean plants grow vertically upward, you may notice that your plant loops around the cane, forming a spiral shape. They invariably spin clockwise and gradually grow up the cane as the plant develops.

Some gardeners believe this happens because the bean plants follow the sun's movement, although runner beans grow in the same direction everywhere in the world, so it remains one of Mother Nature’s great mysteries!

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