When starting the process of growing runner beans, the first question we’re most commonly asked is, which way up to plant runner beans?
Runner bean seeds aren’t very strong or hardy, and can’t withstand volatile temperature changes like some of its close relatives. For this reason they are chosen as favorites for many home growers throughout the summer months, but does it matter which way up you plant runner bean seeds.
The answer is NO. It doesn’t matter which way up you plant runner beans as their roots will naturally grow in whichever direction gravity pulls it. As long as you plant your runner bean seeds vertically and not horizontally, the plant should grow and flourish beautifully.
The shoot of the runner bean seed will also grow in a similar way, with the only difference being that the shoot will always grow in the opposite direction to which gravity pulls. No matter which way up you plant runner beans, the shoot will always grow upwards, into the direction of light.
Did you know that runner beans have been grown for more than 2000 years. You would imagine that finding out information about which way up to plant runner beans would be easier to find, or more people would already know, but apparently not as we hear it all the time. The runner bean originates from the tropical subclimates of Central America and loves the warm climate. This makes growing runner beans in North America all year round difficult as late seasonal frosts are fairly common.
How Tall Should I Let My Runner Beans Grow?
If you’re wondering “how tall should I let my runner beans grow”, then you’ve probably already started to grow your runner bean plants, and they could be getting out of hand.
Infact, your runner bean plant may not even be fully grown yet. It’s hard to believe but runner bean plants can grow up to 3 meters tall. Most commonly a runner bean plant will grow to roughly 2 meters tall, but this can be extended for some individual plants. This means that a fully grown runner bean plant, may be towering over your own stature, making it hard to harvest nearer the top.
Runner bean plants also grow to a width of 75cm, so you will need a reasonable amount of space to grow these at home.
Ideally if you are growing your runner beans at home, you shouldn’t let your runner bean plant grow any taller than your own reach. What we mean by this is that you can comfortably reach the top of the plant, without overstretching or using step ladders. Having a simple harvest makes growing your own runner beans far more enjoyable and safe. Yes this will reduce the yield on each plant, but you should yield a very good amount anyway from each plant, so there’s no need to make extra work for yourself when harvesting.
When To Harvest Runner Beans?
Knowing when to harvest runner beans can sometimes seem a little overwhelming, as the beans can grow to all different shapes and sizes. But this is just one of the brilliant characteristics of the runner bean.
Provided that you have had no late frosts in spring, and you were able to plant your runner bean seeds at the correct time of year, then you should be able to harvest your runner beans in mid July.
For the best harvest you want to allow your runner beans to grow to 20cm long. However not all runner beans grow to this length. Sometimes runner beans will be smaller than this, but leaving them to grow for longer may actually have adverse effects on their health and taste.
When a runner bean is left on the vine too long before its harvest, it begins to lose all of its goodness and ripeness. For the best possibly results, you should pick the amount of runner beans you need every day. This will gives you the longest over all harvest period, with great tasting runner beans, until the taste starts to become sour.
The best thing about runner beans is that you can freeze them, straight from harvest, to keep for a later date. This also means that you can enjoy your runner beans for longer periods of time. Not all vegetables are freezable, so this is definitely something we would recommend taking advantage of.
When to harvest runner beans is more rather “trial and error”, for their ripeness. Because the beans begin to sprout at different times, and each mature at different times, it makes it difficult to state an exact time frame. It’s for this reason that we suggest harvesting a small amount every day throughout July. But no doubt at the beginning and end of the harvest your runner beans may taste under or over ripened.
Runner Beans Growing Problems
There are a number of factors that can cause runner beans growing problems, but we will name just a few of the most common below. Runner beans growing problems are mainly caused by its environment, or an unsuitable environment in which it’s growing. Factors such as; Temperature, Soil Acidity, Pests, Sunlight hours and Fertilizers all play a huge part in the growing rate of your runner bean plants. If any of these factors are slightly off, then you may have extended growing periods, or completely no harvest periods at all.
So let’s take a closer look into the most common runner bean growing problems.
If the temperature is abnormally high, there may not be enough moisture in the soil for the roots during the early stages of growth. Obviously as the roots grow, they delve deeper into the soil where there is naturally more moisture.
Sometimes you will need to increase your watering periods throughout hotter weather to keep the soil damp. Watering your runner bean plants twice a day through these periods, every morning and evening, will keep them sufficiently hydrated.
The natural pH level in surrounding soil may either be too acidic, or not acidic enough to grow healthy runner bean plants. For the best results, the pH level of the soil needs to range between 6.0 – 7.0. Any level outside of this zone could have crucial effects on the healthiness of your runner bean plant.
Top Tip – If your soil has a higher pH level than 7.0, you can add lime juice to the surrounding area to lower its acidity pH levels.
Pests are always going to be a problem for home growers, no matter what fruit or vegetable you are trying to grow. So managing this as best you can may save some of your beloved crops.
Checking on your runner bean plants every few hours (if possible) is one of the best ways to ensure that pests aren’t invading. The most common pests are Ants, Slugs and Snails, which will always be present in your garden somewhere, so putting a mesh guard around the bottom of the stem could save the entire plant.
A misconception about runner bean plants is the amount of sun they need. Notoriously vegetable plants need a full day of sun, but this is very different for runner bean plants. Runner bean plants only need 5-6 hours of sun a day (half a day) to grow healthy.
Too much sun is actually bad for runner bean plants, as photosynthesis takes a lot of energy and nutrients needed by the plant to grow strong. This is one of the most common causes of runner beans growing problems, down to human error, which can be easily altered or fixed.
Like many vegetable plants, the runner bean plant needs a balanced fertilizer. You should use either a 4-4-4 or 10-10-10 fertilizer, which is a balanced mix of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.
These numbers can vary, but as long as all three numbers on the fertilizer are the same, you should be fine. Once the fiertilizer is added into the soil mixture, you shouldn’t have to add any more throughout its growing orcess.
How To Pinch Out Runner Beans?
Pinching out runner beans sounds complicated, but it’s actually a very simple method used to encourage plant growth. Knowing how to pinch out runner beans correctly can enhance growth size and yield size.
As your runner bean plant grows, it will develop “tops”. The tops of a runner bean plant are simply the ends of the stem, found sprouting out the very top of the plant. To pinch out runner beans tops, you simple have to pinch your finger and thumb over the first 4 inches of the “tops” and gently pull your pinch towards the top. This should take off all the top leaves and stimulate the plant into more growth.
The tops will most likely have little leaves all bunched together, which will normally signal the end of the top. But when you pinch the tops off, it enables the plant to continue growing.
Knowing how to pinch out runner beans is great if you are looking to produce the highest yield, however it’s not really needed if you’re just growing them for yourself. Runner bean plants which have been pinched will be noticeably bigger in both size and width, and it’s bushiness will seem much denser than usual.