How to grow Runner and French beans

Beans are some of the most popular, grown and easy to grow vegetables in our garden. There are a few different types each with several varieties but in general they all like the same conditions and have similar requirements.


How to Grow Runner Beans

Like climbing French beans, runner beans are also tender and require support. They’re one of the tallest vegetables in the garden reaching heights of up to 3m (10ft) and they produce an abundance of long bean pods that can reach 30cm (12in). They are often more flavoursome than French or broad beans. They are though of as an easy crop to grow but if soil preparation, watering, support and regular harvesting are not done correctly runner beans won’t thrive.

Site Required for Runner Beans

Runner beans will grow in any fertile and well draining soil. Avoid an exposed site with very acid or waterlogged soil as well as ground that has had beans growing the previous season. Choose a sunny spot and prepare the ground in the autumn prior to planting by digging a bean trench. Two weeks before sowing apply a general fertiliser.

Double-dig your trench to give your beans the best rooting environment from planting right through to harvest. Dig out a spit of soil and put it to one side, in a wheelbarrow or mounded nearby. Fork over the bottom of the trench as deep as you can to improve aeration and drainage. Fill up trench with well-rotted garden compost or manure. Replace the soil from the wheelbarrow over the trench.

You should end up with a mound of soil along the trench which will gradually sink down. For an easier, less strenuous method, simply dig a trench a foot deep and fill with organic matter such as vegetable peelings, leaves, weeds, paper and tea bags.

Cultivation of Runner Beans

Runner beans can be sown in situ when the danger of frost has passed from mid May to the end of June. The seeds can also be sown indoors at the end of April and transplanted out at the end of May or start of June.

Before any seeds are sown a sturdy support needs to be erected for the beans to climb up. The traditional method is to use bamboo canes either in a wigwam or in a row but string, wire or mesh works equally well. They can also be grown over existing arches or against fences and walls. Rows need to be 45cm (18in) apart and canes pushed 30cm (12in) deep at 20cm (8in) interval and tied at the top. Sow seeds 5cm (2in) deep on the inside of each cane. Alternatively, if you’ve sown seeds indoors, plant out at the same spacing, loosely tying in young plants.

Caring for Runner Beans

When flower buds appear water well especially when the weather is dry. When plants reach the top of the support pinch out growing tip.

Harvesting Runner Beans

Harvest when pods are between 15cm (6in) to 20cm (8in) from mid July through to the fist frost. Pick continuously, at least every other day, to retain a good harvest. Whole pods are normally eaten but seeds can be dried and stored. Gluts are likely but the beans freeze well.


Best Varieties of Runner Beans - FirestormStardust


Pest and Diseases of Runner Beans

• Seed Beetle
• Bean Seed Fly
• Black Bean Aphid
• Downy Mildew
• Powdery Mildew
• Foot Rot & Root Rot
• Pea & Bean Weevil
• Flowers Not Set
• Halo Bright
• Chocolate Spot
• No Pods
• Marsh Spot
• Birds
• Botrytis
• Fusarium Wilt
• Anthracnose


How to Grow French Beans

Unlike broad beans, French beans are half hardy and are sown from mid May for this reason. Despite being more tender they are just as easy to grow as broad beans and are a good intermediate crop until runner beans are ready for picking. There are several types including, climbing, dwarf, flat-pod and pencil-pod and are available in green, yellow and purple pods. They are primarily eaten whole when young and tender but the beans can be dried for Haricot beans or eaten fresh as Flageolet.

Site Required for French Beans

French beans will grow in any fertile and well draining soil. Avoid an exposed site with very acid or waterlogged soil as well as ground that has had beans growing the previous season. Choose a sunny spot and prepare the ground in the autumn prior to planting by adding manure if needed. Two weeks before sowing apply a general fertiliser. Climbing varieties benefit from a trench being dug (see runner beans).

Cultivation of French Beans

French beans can be sown in situ or indoors and then planted out; the latter is the best option for colder regions. For outdoor sowing the soil shouldn’t be wet and temperatures lower than 10°c (53°F) produce bad germination results. To sow in April warm up the ground with a cloche before hand or alternatively wait until mid May. Seeds should be sown 10cm (4in) apart in drills 5cm deep, leaving 45cm (18in) between rows. Two outdoor sowings, three weeks apart ensure a long harvest period.

Sowing indoors first is a more reliable method especially if an earlier harvest is wanted. Initiate germination by placing beans on damp kitchen roll and wait for them to swell. Any that aren’t plump can be discarded. Sow seeds in cell trays or root trainers, harden off and plant out when risk of frost has passed. Climbing varieties will need support but it’s beneficial to prop up all plants for ease of harvest and to keep the crop clean.

Harvesting French Beans

Beans will be ready to pick from the end of June when the pods are about 10cm (4in) long. For green beans the pods should be picked before visible signs of the beans appear. For Haricot beans wait until the pods turn a straw colour then hang the plants indoors to dry. When the pods begin to split, collect the beans and dry for a few days before storing them in an airtight jar.


Best Varieties of French Beans - DelinelCobra


For Best Results

Improve plant health with Bio-Gro Plant Health Invigorator to suppress insects, pests and fungal diseases and boosts vigorous healthy growth.


You May Also Need

Protect your young plants with Insect Netting. Use Pea & Bean Net between canes for added growing support. Pre-dig the soil with our lightweight, dry Organic Extra Natural Farmyard Manure.

Why not grow runner beans and French beans from seed, The Marshalls windowsill propagator kit, has everything you need to get started.


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