Runner beans are one of the most productive and pretty crops for small spaces. Here are some tips for growing them healthily (and beautifully) in containers. Once the threat of frost has passed (now in the UK), it’s time to get your runner beans started! (These tips were first published for The Secret Seed Society’s Giant Bean Competition – check out the competition – and it’s great website for kids).
1. Runners grow best with lots of water – so use a large pot (easier to keep well watered) or a container with a water reservoir (like an Earthbox)
2. They need pollinating by bees – so it can be fun and beneficial to grow some insect attracting flowers nearby.
3. Slugs love runner bean seedlings. You can protect with small home made cloches – cut empty drink bottles in half and put one over each seedling.
4. You can buy runners with orange or white flowers. Mixing the two can look really pretty.
5. Runners need a good tall support to climb up – like a wigwam. If you can find tall branches, they can look much prettier than canes.
6. When the runners reach the top of the canes, pinch out the tops (this means cutting the very tip off). This will encourage the plant to send out more shoots – and beans – below.
7. Pick, pick, pick. It’s very important to keep picking running beans – as this encourages the plant to grow more. Pick the beans small for a delicious, tender treat (big beans look cool but can be rather tough to eat).
8. To boost your crop, feed with liquid tomato food once every two or three weeks after the plant starts flowering.