Jamie with his 29" runner beans Read How to grow them below and purchase seed from the shop
The soil has to be dug in the autumn with well-rotted manure, triple dug into the soil. During mid March to early April, the soil should be dug and then rotovated a couple of weeks before planting. After digging, it should be left for a couple of weeks to settle. Towards the end of april, the soil should be treated with a base fertilizer such as Vitax gr124 and chicken manure pellets. Runner beans should be grown on a mound and vertically up bean canes. If you want to be really sustainable, head into the local woods and cut down some hazelnut branches in the Autumn.
The giant variety of runner beans that we use was first developed by our father so we do not have a name for it other than “Fortey’s strain”. The runner bean seed should be started off during the first week of May in pots in a mixture of compost and vermiculite with a 6 month feed added for essential feeding for the young plant (miracle grow slow release / osmocote) to aid germination, ensure that the seeds are kept under a temperature of 60 - 65 degrees. The plants are to be planted out at the end of May when the soil has warmed and the nights are longer. Usually when the weeds start to grow, the soil is right for planting / germination of seeds.
At the end of may plant seed directly in the ground, about 1/4 inch deep. The timing of the planting is essentially dependent on the warmth of the soil. If it is too wet the seed will simply rot off and not germinate.
As with all seedlings ensure that they are given adequate frost protection and guarded from those deadly slugs! Apply a handful of slug pellets to the area.
Runner beans like to be watered during the early evening about 6pm when the sun is not at its strongest. If watered over the leaves during the day, the sun could scorch the leaves and rid the plant of its essential leaves that are required to make it grow.
The plants should be fed at the start of the season with a balanced mixture of miracle grow or vitax 101. This allows for the essential growing of the root ball to give the plant vigour for its later months of rapid growth. When the runner beans have formed you should feed with vitax 102 every two to three days.
Care should be taken to ensure that the runner beans are not allowed to dry out as differences in the moisture of the soil may cause the runner beans to grow a funny shape (dwarfed) and ruin your hard work.
The beans grow on trusses coming off the main stem. It is adviseable to try and tie a long bean up as its weight can very often bend the top of the bean and stunt its growth.
We recommend growing the beans on a cordon and cutting off the side shoots as the main energy will go into the main stem of the bean. In addition, it is recommended to thin out the beans and only allow one or two to grow on each truss.
Keep a record of your runner beans length and number of seeds in the pod. Each year you can compare previous years growth. For the shows, the runner beans are measured in a straight line so do not take a bendy one.
There are a number of bugs that love the leaves of the runner beans. These include, shield bug, slugs, caterpillars, blackfly, ants, aphids, whitefly and red spider. If you have any pests on the plants we will shortly have a bugs section on the website so you can try to determine which one/s you have.
In order to take the runner beans to the shows, it is advisable to wrap them up in a blanket and give them as much cushioning on the journey as possible. They are very delicate and can snap really easily. If they are snapped they will not be accepted at the shows. Also, if they are old (brown) they will not be accepted either. The runner bean must be fresh and green in colour.
It is important that the beans are thinned out as mentioned previously. The longest bean from the truss should be left to grow. This can then be cut on the day of the show.
In order to save seed from runner beans, at the end of the shows, the runner beans should be kept in a dry, cool environment to aid the development of the seeds. Keep them in a garage for a couple of weeks and then harvest the seeds. To do this you have to simply break open the runner bean along the join.
After the runner beans have been selected, they need to be taken out of their pods. The seeds then need to be dried in newspaper for two weeks, this will ensure that they are sound for next season. Take out the seeds that are showing signs of dampness / mildew.