Grow your own runner beans from seed
Runner beans adore rich, well draining soil, so the Autumn before planting dig in some good compost to enrich the soil over winter.
The next thing is to erect some stakes or poles up which your beans will be trained. Make these as sturdy as possible and ensure they won't blow away in a high wind because, when all the foliage is on the plants the wind can't get through easily and can blow them over if you aren't too careful.
I have always grown my own runner beans from seed because then I know what they are, whether they are heavy croppers and whether they have diseases.
I grow mine in straight lines but they will grow equally well in wigwams if you are tight for space. Just make sure they won't blow down later in the year.
As always there are a couple of ways of planting your beans. Some people plant them directly where they are to grow but I prefer to grow them in pots in the greenhouse and plant out when they are hardened off. That way you can see if they have germinated.
Planting your beans in pots this way ensures that they will germinate far faster than being out in the cold garden and you should see some results of them popping up within a week or 10 days.
Even planting them by this method means there is a right and wrong way to do things as the soil or compost you are putting them in needs to be nicely damp but not soaking wet or the seeds will rot. Plant your seeds in their pots in the usual way -ie in damp compost - and cover with clear plastic, bubble wrap or a clear solid cover.
People ask me if there is a right or wrong way to plant bean seeds and the answer is a definite YES, there is.
Take a look at the photo of the runner bean and you will be able to make out the scar in the centre top of the seed. Look at the left hand side of that scar and you will see that it narrows to a point, and this to be pushed into the soil first as this is where the root will emerge from. This matters when planting in pots because if you get it the wrong way round the seed will start to sprout its roots at the top.
What seeds are best?
The beans in the pic below are St George, an excellent cropper, but all the heat we had in the summer of 2018 made lots of flowers fall off before they had set. So, I am using White Lady for the 2019 season which crop just as well but the flowers set better whatever the climate.
When do you plant out? This depends entirely on where you live and I can say that the south of the country enjoys a far longer planting and growing season than the midlands where we live, or the north of the country. I believe there is a good 30/40 days difference between the far south and the far north but generally the middle of May is a good time to plant out, or early May if you are planting seeds directly into the soil.
Before planting out you must remember to "harden off" your plants. This entails putting them outside for a few days and bringing them back in at night, and after about a week you can leave them out all night if there is no sign of a frost. Plant them out in your garden after about 10 days and look forward to a bumper crop.
OK so far? Great! then when your beans are fully grown and have reached the tops of their sticks you need to nip off the growing tip - see the pic for this - as doing this encourages the plant to bush out and start producing their pods.
At what stage you pick your beans is entirely up to you but we like them nice and young with a good "snap" and picking them at this stage means the plant will have the strength to grow more and the beans themselves won't be stringy.