how to grow runner beans UK

How to Grow Runner Beans

A necessity in any British garden, these pole beans are easy to grow and absolutely gorgeous to boot. They can be solely an ornamental or you can also eat the seed pods. Does it get any better?

Seed Starting

To get the most out of the season, start runner bean seeds indoors in mid-April. They will be ready to plant outdoors in mid to late May. Runner beans are very sensitive to soil temperature. They need it to be above 10C.

Fill 7-8cm pots with good potting mix and place one seed 5cm deep in each one. Water the soil well and place in a spot where they will get lots of sun. A windowsill is perfect. Water regularly.

Transplanting Outdoors

Once the seedlings have grown 7-10cm and the soil outside is above 10C, the starts can be transplanted in the garden. Harden the delicate seedlings off before planting by putting them outside in increments. Start by putting them out for one hour a day and increase it each day until by the end of one week they are outside all day.

Transplant seedlings in rows 45cm apart with 30cm between each plant.

Starting More Seeds Outdoors

Planting runner bean seeds every few weeks will prolong the harvest. From May through July, you can make continuous plantings. In fact, you really should!

Sow seeds 5cm deep in rows 50cm apart with plants spaced 30cm apart.

Support Your Plants

Traditional runner beans like to run! Of course, if you have the non-climbing or bush varieties, this won’t be an issue. If you have climbers, though, you will need to provide a type of support for them. They can grow up to 2m tall. Set up the support system before you plant any seeds or transplants so you don’t disrupt the plants while they are growing.

A wigwam structure is striking especially when the plants bloom. Garden canes are arranged in a circle and tied together at the top to form a sturdy structure for the vines and heavy fruit. Alternately, you can set up a double row of bamboo canes 2.4m apart and tie them together at the top to form a type of A-frame. Or, they can be tied together lower to form an X-shape.

If you are using a support system, transplant or direct sow one runner bean plant at the base of each cane.

Runner Bean Care

Runner beans need lots of water, approximately 5-9 litres per square meter every 4 days. Lack of water is the biggest reason for failure with these plants.

Once the bean vines reach the top of the cane support structure, pinch off the tips. This will divert their energy into growing pods instead of growing taller.


When the bean pods are 15-20cm long, they are ready to be picked. Harvest them every 2-3 days to make sure you are getting them at the peak of their quality. Also, picking regularly will encourage the plants to produce more.

Runner beans are great for growing in small spaces, large spaces, and everywhere in-between. Don’t miss out on this beautiful and delicious crop.

Check out some our other growing guides:

How to grow leeks from seeds.

How to grow potatoes in pots.

How to grow strawberries in pots.

How to grow tomatoes in a greenhouse.

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