GARDENING: Runner beans, they’re a funny old vegetable

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RUNNER beans are a funny old vegetable – last year was great, the year before terrible, both with the same variety, Moonlight.

I dried my own beans, which proved to be disastrous, so ended up buying a packet of Scarlet Emperor instead - an older type, with traditional red flowers.

They were sown later, but with no ill effects - a lesson learned.

This year, they’re growing in the top raised bed and were looking good, until the inevitable slug/snail damage. Most will recover, but it’s a setback.

Beans need plenty of water, regular feed and sunny days - not the overcast ones we seem to have had a lot of.

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.

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

I usually do it this way, but this year decided to use the 8ft flower stalks from the Phormium (New Zealand flax) - they’re tough as old nails and look more natural than canes.

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

The odd can of high potash fertiliser wouldn’t go amiss, as well as a good mulch.