Ellen Mary picking runner beans

Ellen's September 2023 blog

Every year, it’s usually the runner beans that take up a large percentage of the freezer because they are so prolific and my confession is - I am not even that into them!

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An Indian summer is upon us it seems! If your fruit, vegetables and cut flowers have survived the ups and downs of this year, they may well be basking in the sunshine of September. The bonus of a late summer means an extended season and more to harvest. Some of my most prolific harvests this year have been the beans. They have survived drought, rain, wind and now the late sunshine is giving them a second burst of life.

Every year, it’s usually the runner beans that take up a large percentage of the freezer because they are so prolific and my confession is - I am not even that into them! I eat them because I grow them but I could definitely do a year or two without blanching and freezing bags of beans. With that in mind, each year I announce I won’t be sowing any runner beans. So I choose some French beans - this year I sowed the delicious climbing French bean a ‘Blue Lake’ which are stringless, easy to grow and very reliable. But right next to them was a space, just enough for another bamboo teepee and so there I sowed some runner beans again. I do love them for the height, the flowers and knowing if all else fails - I will be able to harvest some runner beans!

Over the years I have tried many different varieties. I loved ‘White Lady’, as did the bees, ‘Scarlet Emperor’ tends to come free with magazines so I have grown that often and ‘Painted Lady’ has lovely bicoloured flowers which look really pretty. All in all, if they are stringless then I will give them a try.

I have also grown beans as an experiment in the ‘Three Sisters’ planting method which was used by Native Americans. It’s about companion planting corn, beans and squash together. The corn is support for the beans, the beans fixes nitrogen in the soil and the squash leaves lessen weeds. It may work in the UK, depending on the weather at the time but mostly I have found the beans to grow much faster than the corn, meaning between the squash and the beans the corn got left behind. I think it might work better in different climatic conditions. I love how every year is an experiment in the garden!

So with the runner beans and the French beans, the freezer is getting full and I will probably say I am not growing them again next year. But what would my allotment look like without some teepees of flowering beans? I am not really sure I want to find out!

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