Growing runner beans in pots
Runner beans are one of the most productive and pretty crops for containers - and an excellent choice for small spaces. Growing runner beans in pots is not difficult. They are one of the best crops for containers.
You can get runners with orange or white flowers. Mixing the two can look really pretty.
Here are some tips to grow an abundant crop.
1. SowingSow once the threat of frost has passed (May or early June in most of the UK). Start them inside in pots on a bright window sill or outside in their final pot. Tip: sow more beans than you need in case some are eaten by slugs.
2. They like lots of waterTo grow and fruit well, beans need plenty of water. Use a large pot of at least 20 litres but ideally 40 - 50 litres (4 - 10 gallons). Big pots hold more water and dry out less quickly. Or use a large container with a water reservoir (like an Earthbox). Keep well watered, particularly on hot or windy days.
3. SunThey need about five to six hours sun or more (around half a day) to grow and fruit well. Tip: In many small spaces there is often more light higher up - see if you can place your beans to climb up into more sun as they grow.
4. PollinationIn order for the fruits to set, they need pollinating by bees – so it can be fun and beneficial to grow some insect attracting flowers nearby. Sometimes you will find that your beans will flower but not produce beans. The possible reasons for this are summarised on the RHS website. But don't worry too much - often the problem is temporary and resolves itself with warmer weather.
5. Protect from slugsSlugs love runner bean seedlings. You can protect with small home made cloches – cut empty drink bottles in half and put one over each seedling - or start the seeds inside.
6. SupportRunners need a good tall support to climb up – like a wigwam. If you can find tall branches, they can look much prettier than canes. You could even grow two pots and make a runner bean arch, or grow them up netting. It's a fun opportunity to be creative. You can find some excellent ideas on different supports on the Brussels Kitchen Garden website.
7. Pinch outWhen 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.
8. PickPick, 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).
9. FeedTo boost your crop, feed with liquid tomato food once every two or three weeks after the plant starts flowering.
Get the family involved!Growing runner beans in pots is also an excellent project to do with kids. The seeds are large and beautiful (you can call them magic beans!) and easy to plant. And you can have fun making wigwams or other climbing structure together.
These tips were first published for The Secret Seed Society's Giant Bean Competition.