Rate of growth of scarlet runners is amazing, and the smother of flowers (white, and pink and white, as well as the old-fashioned scarlet) presages generous pickings of long pods. The plants need tall stakes to twine around and climb; though 2-ft. stakes can be used and the plants kept dwarf and bushy, as described in a later paragraph.
Soil light rather than heavy, but rich, is productive of the greatest and most prolonged yield. Full sun is ideal, but some shade during pan of the day does not affect cropping.
Varieties include Scarlet Emperor, Improved Painted Lady and Mammoth White Czar (white seeded).
About 180 seeds go to the pint, and average period of germination is about seventeen days.
Ready for Use.
First pickings are ready in late July, after dwarf French beans have already been enjoyed. Season extends to October.
As with all other tall crops rows should run north and south; sun then reaches both sides. It is worth while preparing special trenches, 5 ft. or 6 ft. apart for plants to be staked, 3 ft. apart for those to be kept dwarf and bushy, each trench to be 18 in. wide, soil taken out to the depth of 9 in. and placed on one side. The bottom soil is then broken up and decayed vegetable refuse, or hop or animal manure, forked into it.
Part of the excavated soil only is returned, after being enriched with material similar to that forked into the bottom. After the contents of the trench have been firmed by treading, its surface should be about 4 in. below the general level – to facilitate watering later on.
When and How to Sow.
The runner bean cannot stand frost at either end of the year. Mid-May is outdoor sowing time, other sowings being made, if necessary, up to mid-June. In northern and other cold districts outdoor sowing is not advisable; plants should be raised in a cold frame for setting out in June.
Sow 2 in. deep in single rows, these to be separated by 5 ft.; or in double rows 9 in. apart, the double rows to be separated by 6 ft., the seed in one row to be spaced opposite the gaps of the twin row ; or in rows 3 ft. apart if plants are to be dwarfed. The plants should stand 1 ft. apart; seed may be sown at 6-in. intervals and the seedlings thinned out; a clump or two should be sown as a reserve for filling in spaces where seed has failed to come up in the rows.
Sowing in Boxes.
Cold district sowings to be made in seed boxes filled with good leafy soil during early May, the boxes to be placed in frame, greenhouse, or Light and sunny room indoors. Put the seeds in singly, • in. deep and 2 in. apart. Plant out in June.
In warmer districts a similar sowing may be made with safety in April, the plants to be set out in May when the weather is warm and settled.
Plants should be taken from the boxes (the soil previously moistened) with all the soil possible clinging to the roots and planted in ample, trowel made holes, and at once watered in if the ground is dry.
Supports for the Runners.
Thick sticks (no need to have them branched, as for peas) to go firmly into the ground, one to each plant, are used for supports when they are obtainable. They should be pushed into the ground about 3 in. from die plants and, in the case of double rows (9 in. apart), sloped inwards. To make them secure against wind, long sticks should be placed crosswise about I ft. down from the top, the upright sticks being tied to the horizontal one crossing them. They need to stand at least 7 ft. out of the ground.
A light wooden framework – top, bottom, two ends – secured firmly in the ground by end supports, with strings fastened to top and bottom at 12-in. intervals, will take the place of the conventional stakes when these are scarce.
Anything climbable and of sufficient height, such as a trellis, may have runner beans as occupiers of whatever space is available.
Young plants may need coaxing, at first, to climb, by tying loosely to the foot of die stake; or short bits of stick can be pushed into the ground so that the plants are pressed lightly to the stakes they are to climb.
Without Tall Stakes.
Plants are kept down to about 2 ft., and the need of tall stakes avoided, by pinching off the tips when tiiey have reached that height. Side shoots will develop, and these will need tipping when 6 in. long; subsequent growths being dealt with similarly. Pod production is not lessened to any appreciable extent.
Soaking the rows with clear water at frequent intervals is a great crop encouragement. Production begins to fall off when the plants suffer from drought. Liquid manure given every ten days or so – after an ordinary watering, or after rain – has excellent results. An artificial fertilizer mixture may be used instead; or nitrate of soda solution – ½ ounces dissolved in each gallon of water. This feeding should start, if possible, when the first pods appear.
Why Flowers Drop Off.
When flowers fall off instead of setting – a common trouble in dry weather – this can be put right by syringing or spraying the flowering parts with clear water every rainless evening. Rainwater is best for this purpose, exposed to the sun so that it is warmed; the chill of hard water straight from the tap is not appreciated.
The flower-dropping complaint is less likely to be experienced if the soil is kept moist as far down as the roots.
Other-Trouble Remedies. The first trouble likely to assail the plants – apart from frost, which is avoided by delaying sowing until mild weather, or by raising plants under glass – is slugs; black fly and red spider are next on the list; and halo blight and anthracnose may be in evidence. These are all dealt with as explained in the chart.
The gaps of 5 ft. or 6 ft. between rows are necessary for the health of the plants. They can, however, be very profitably occupied by low-growing vegetables such as lettuce, turnip, spinach, radish, sown thinly down the centre. These profit by the shade cast by the beans and in no way interfere with the latter.
Picking the Pods. Before seeds plump up and bulge the pods is the time to gather. The most skilful cook cannot make them other than stringy and coarse if picking is not done promptly and regularly. Some pods may easily escape notice amongst the dense foliage; these should be searched for at every picking.
Storing for Winter.
Seeds as well as pods are easily preserved for winter use, as explained in the section dealing with home preservation.
Preparing for Table.
Freshly gathered pods need to have the tips and ends cut off, the string and a strip from the other side removed, and then be sliced for cooking.
Beans sliced and dried for winter use should be soaked in water overnight; salted beans need to be washed in three or four changes of water, then soaked in warm water for two hours before cooking; dried beans should have boiling water poured over them and be allowed to soak for twelve hours, before cooking. Food value is considerable. On account of the amount of carbohydrates they contain, runner – and other – beans should be omitted from the diet of those suffering from diabetes.