The runner bean is a very popular crop, grown almost everywhere during the summer. And no wonder, when you can get crops exceeding 60 lbs from a 3 metre double row.

Runner beans will grow successfully in most soils, with the exception of hungry, badly drained soil. Avoid growing beans in the same spot as the previous year.

 Choose a sheltered location that is reasonably sunny and sheltered from high winds. In the autumn dig over the bed to a medium tilth and add compost or well rotted farm yard manure, adding lime if the soil is acidic. Two weeks prior to sowing rake over the bed and apply a general purpose fertiliser such as Growmore.

Sow your main crop directly outside when the risk of frost has passed, usually around May. A second sowing in June will provide beans up to the end of October. You can start your beans off earlier by planting seedlings sown in April indoors, but wait until the last frost has passed.

Your beans will require support to prevent them from toppling over so use bamboo canes or poles to create a structure upon which the beans can climb. 

A double line of inwardly sloping and crossed poles, secured with a horizontal bar, is successful. Position your poles at the same distance you will sow your seeds. Sow the seeds in drills 5 cm deep at 22 cm spacing's, allowing 45 cm between rows. Cover with soil and water gently.

Your runner beans will germinate within 7-14 days. Protect the seedlings from slugs and regularly remove competing weeds. 

Tie in the young seedlings to the poles until they support their selves. Mulch under the plants in June to conserve moisture. Ensure you water well after the first pods have formed and feed the plants with a liquid fertiliser during the cropping season.

You can harvest your runner beans when the pods snap easily when bent, at approximately 15 cm long. Pick regularly to avoid any pods maturing, every other day in summer, as leaving pods to mature will result in the flower-producing mechanism to switch off and reduce your crop.

You can keep your beans for up to a week by placing in a polythene bag in the fridge. Alternatively you can freeze the beans for up to 12 months if you wash and trim the beans, slice them into small chunks and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes.

You can also dry the beans by leaving the pods on the plant until they are yellow, and then hang indoors to dry until brittle. Shell the beans and place to dry on a sheet of paper for several days prior to storing in an air tight container.