Running riot!

Bean feast: Left, runner beans Moonlight in a raised bed with courgettes, dill and coriander (Californian poppies at the front provide a bit of colour); below, beans forming on the plants.

Bean feast: Left, runner beans Moonlight in a raised bed with courgettes, dill and coriander (Californian poppies at the front provide a bit of colour); below, beans forming on the plants.

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IT’S either all or nothing with runner beans.

Last year, not a single pod set, despite growing a variety supposed to form beans whatever the weather.

Of course, last summer was exceptionally cool and wet, with low numbers of pollinating insects around.

The difference in the mount of insects from then to now is unbelieveable.

One thing we tend to forget when it comes to crop success is light intensity. We all remember good and bad weather, but tend to forget the plain dull grey days.

Yet weeks of overcast weather can really affect growth cycles.

Clouds without rain are a hidden menace – you’re lulled into thinking “it hasn’t been sunny, so I won’t have to water” when the poor plants have received no benefit at all! As I still had half a packet of beans left – Moonlight, with white flowers – I decided to use them up.

Thankfully, it was the weather that fettled them last year, not me.

The plants shot away and it’s a daily task of searching through the leaves to pick the pods.

Make sure you do this regularly – there’s a mechanism inside bean plants and if you miss one pod and it grows to maturity, the flower production system switches off – it thinks it’s done its job.

Missing pods is easy. If you find any mammoth ones, cut them off and chuck them on the compost, they’lll be too tough and stringy to eat.

If you’re a traditionalist, you’re probably growing your beans over an 8ft double row of bamboo canes, lashed together at the top.

I do it this way – it’s cheap, practical and I like the look of it, very cottage garden.

When they reach the top of their supports, nip out the leading stems, so they can concentrate their energy into pod production.

And the odd can of high potash fertiliser wouldn’t go amiss, either – you’ve only got until the first frost to enjoy them.