Saturday, 25 July 2009

Runner Beans: Learnings & Pointers...

The ultimate 'end product' of growing your own vegetables, surely has to be picking something from your garden and eating it. As you may be aware, my runner beans are certainly not the prettiest example of urban vegetable growing, but recently they have started to produce plenty of small beans.

The other evening, I picked off three of the biggest beans. They were delicious and the good news is, I have around twelve more runner beans growing steadily on the plants. Not bad considering I was about to throw them away the other week! Whereas last year I had only a paltry two runner beans all summer, the improved success this year, I believe, is due to the extra compost these plants have.

Last year, when I disposed of my runner bean plants, I emptied the pots to find that the roots were incredibly densely packed into such a tiny space – just look at this picture from April to see how quickly the roots grow:

By planting this year's runner bean plants in bottomless flower pots on top of an open grow bag, the roots have had much more room to spread and the benefits are clearly visible in the amount of runner beans I'm now harvesting.

If you'd like to grow runner beans on a balcony, this seemingly wild idea is in fact very possible. From my experiences on the London Vegetable Garden, I recommend:

Giving your runner bean plants plenty of room for root growth. If you're growing in a pot, the larger the better.

Constructing a solid pyramid cane structure. My runner beans are all along the back wall of the balcony. Whilst I am managing to harvest vegetables, the leaves are all intertwined and some I'm sure, must be choking each other. A roomy, pyramid structure gives the leaves more room to breathe and more space for the runner beans to grow properly.

Water regularly. As with all balcony or container gardening, drainage is vitally important, so that the plants don't drown. My runner beans have been a thirsty plant, especially as they get bigger – don't let the compost dry out (as some is hard to re-hydrate once it's bone dry) and feed regularly.

I hope these tips are useful – after all, I'm making mistakes so that you don't have to! Runner beans may be an ambitious balcony or urban garden vegetable, but they are very much a realistic, hardy vegetable to grow. If set up correctly and cared for, there's no reason why you can't enjoy some tasty runner beans throughout the summer. Good luck!


  1. Very good tips given, wishing you a bigger success next year :)

  2. My large tomatos have been ripening now at a rate of 1 or 2 a day for the past month. My mediums have been ripening at 1 or 2 a week for the past 2 weeks. My cherry tomatos have just started to ripen (harvested 4 last week). However my eggplants have been producing at least 1 a day, and I get a cucumber every 3 or 4 days. Already ate all the radishes. A second batch of strawberries have just started to ripen. The watermellons have just started to flower (had to replant after the nerw puppy decided the watermellon was the perfect plant to chew on).
    Patience. Once they start to ripen they will come in pretty quick.



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