Bushy, low growing beans are usually referred to as dwarf beans. Runner beans are climbing beans and there are both perennial and annual types. The traditional climbing bean in this country is the Scarlet Runner. It is a perennial plant so it goes dormant over winter and rockets into growth as soon as temperatures rise. Perennial beans tend to be better in cooler climates because they stop cropping as soon as the temperature rises over summer. When treated as an annual and sown afresh each year, they have more vigour so many gardeners prefer to do this.
You can build a permanent climbing frame, though this means you can not rotate the crop. We have used chicken netting secured to side posts as a frame. Others like the look of trellis but these days we find movable tepee constructions more flexible.
The annual climbing beans crop more heavily. These are direct sown in spring to a depth of about 2.5cm at 10cm spacings. Depending on the variety, you will be picking in 2 to 3 months. It is the usual soil story for most crops that grow above ground – full sun, well cultivated, well fertilised soils and mulch the crop to retain moisture. The plants will simply stop producing new beans if they come under stress from summer drought.
It is the over mature, older style runner beans that become stringy. Picking every few days encourages the plant to continue producing and avoids the fiddly strings that need to be cut out. Try Kings Seeds catalogue for a wide selection of different bean varieties.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.