Our runner beans are now growing like, well like beans I suppose 😉 They are making their way steadily up their supports, and starting to flower now, showing promise of lovely fresh runner beans for the table before too much longer. One of the joys of homegrown vegetables is the difference in taste that comes with freshly picked produce, and I am looking forward to our first feed of fresh runner beans.

Plant care

But, although the plants are growing well, we are not ready to put them on the menu yet. At this stage, the care of plants is a matter of four categories – support, pest damage, nutrition and general plant care.

Support

If you are growing climbing runner beans, they need a reasonbly strong support to climb up. You may need to tie the climbing “nose” of the plant in to begin with, but the growing beans will soon find the structure and twine themselves around. I find something fascinating about watching the beans’ progress up the poles as they grow, Jack’s beanstalk had nothing on our runner beans 😀

Pest damage

There are one or two garden pests that love runner beans, and good plant care suggests that we need to be on the look-out for them.

Snails (and slugs) are one of the main culprits. They will eat away large patches of leaf and, if they catch the plant young enough, will strip the leaves right away to the bare stem, looking for all the world as though a swarm of locusts had just flown through. Snails will be found hiding in cool crevices – under or behind flower pots, under the rim of flower pots, in the spout of the watering can etc. The only thing to do with them is remove them – you can either kill them, or evict them to the garden of your nearest non-gardening neighbour 😉

Pea and bean weevils will also eat away at the bean leaves but, in their case, they will nibble away delicately at the edges of the leave, leaving them looking a little bit like the edges of a postage stamp. Once the beans are mature, they will generally recover from a weevil attack, but they can totally destroy seedlings.

Halo blight shows itself as yellow patches on leaves, with a brown centre to them. Called “halo blight” because the yellow rings take on the appearance of halos around the brown middles. The plants will be stunted and yields low. Destroy diseased plants and rotate your crops so that beans are not grown again in the same spot for some time.

Nutrition

It is possible for peas and beans to fail to flower if they have too much nitrogen. A balanced fertilizer with phosphorus and potash is needed for them.

Beans need plenty of water from the time the pods start to form, and mulching can help to keep the moisture levels up. A liquid feed in the water from time to time through cropping is needed.

General plant care

Hoe regularly around beans to keep the weeds down and the soil open.

Remove the growing tips once the plants reach the top of their supports – this will encourage the beans to thicken up from the bottom.

Once the pods have reached an edible size, be sure to pick them regularly. Firstly, they are much better to eat when they are young and tender and, secondly, if the pods are allowed to mature, the plants will stop producing any more.

Lastly – look forward to sitting down to a feast of fresh, tender, runner beans 🙂

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Runner bean trivia

What’s eating my runner beans?

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