Friday, 22 November 2013

Perennial Runner Beans

This year I started something I've been wanting to try for quite some time now. I found out a while ago that runner beans are actually perennial, it's just that our climate here in the UK is a little too cold for them in winter. It's said that if you grow them as perennials, they crop earlier than plants grown from seed in the spring, although they never crop as heavily. So that seemed like a challenge not to be missed!

I've done a little research and have found out that the white flowered, white seeded varieties are more hardy than others. So this spring, I planted out Czar Runner Beans, a suitably cold climate sounding bean! And I planted loads of them, so if they do crop badly in future years, we should still have a good supply.

I've also heard it recommended that you heavily mulch the plants over winter to protect the roots from frost. So last week, hearing we'd got snow on the way, I went out to mulch them with a good, thick layer of straw.

I've taken all the stringy old bean pods off now, so the plants aren't wasting any energy fattening up seeds, but I haven't cut back the plants yet - they still have some green leaves, so I might as well leave them there until they've dropped these leaves, so they can use them to feed up their roots ready for the winter. Then I'll cut them all right back beneath the straw bedding.

And then we wait!

I've collected seeds from each plant and have put them into labelled envelopes so I know which seeds come from which plant.

I'm going to write it down here so I don't forget - I've got row 1 farthest along the garden, with plant A nearest the house and plant G farthest away from the house  and row 2 nearer to the back door with plants A-G as before. For any plants that survive, I can use their seeds to grow new plants to fill in the gaps. Fingers crossed I get something in the spring!

If any of you have tried this before or know of any other types of bean that can be grown perennially, it would be great to hear about it!

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