Runner Bean ‘Snowstorm’

Family: Fabaceae

Runner bean ‘Snowstorm’ is a tell climbing runner bean variety that was bred in the UK by Tozer Seeds.  ‘Snowstorm’ is an easy to grow, productive variety with pretty white flowers.  This variety has been created by crossing French beans with runner beans to create a runner bean cultivar that is is pollinated more readily and more reliable at cropping.  Tozer have bred a number of runner bean cultivars with French bean genetics in their family tree as part of their extensive breeding programme, that has ran for more than twenty years.  Don’t worry – the runner beans haven’t lost their runner bean flavour – they still taste as good as you expect.

You don’t need a greenhouse or any fancy equipment to grow runner beans.  I start my runner bean seeds off in the middle of May, (late spring) in the UK and I’ll continue to sow runner bean seeds into June.  Runner bean seeds can be sown from the middle of April (inside a glasshouse) to the beginning of July, but these are tender plants – do ensure your seedlings are protected from cold weather.

Runner beans are tender perennials that are killed by frosts – please don’t be tempted to plant out your runner beans plants before all risk of frost has passed.  In the UK, the date for the last frost varies considerably according to the location.  Usually, by the time we’ve reached the 1st June, we can relax and we won’t need to worry about any frosts in summertime, but the last frost date can be earlier in more Southerly areas and gardeners in more Northerly locations will have to wait until around the middle of June.  After planting out runner bean plants, it’s wise to protect these tender plants at night using a cloche or a soft material like a fleece or an old net curtain.

Plant ‘Snowstorm’ runner beans in your brightest, sunniest location.  Choose a sheltered spot, away from the prevailing wind.  Tall climbing runner beans like ‘Snowstorm’ are naturally deep rooted plants that are best grown in the soil rather than planted in pots or containers.  Although, I must say that it is wise to start your runner bean plants off in pots to protect your seedlings from slugs and snails.  The plants don’t need to stay in containers for long – sow your ‘Snowstorm’ seeds in tall containers of homemade compost or a good quality peat-free compost and plant out before they show any interest in climbing.  After planting, water your runner bean plants in well and then mulch around your runner beans with homemade garden compost.  Remember to protect your plants from slugs and snails.

Runner beans thrive in moisture-retentive soils.  To improve the water holding capacity of their soil, runner bean growers often dig a runner bean trench in autumn and fill the trench with shredded newspaper, cardboard, vegetable peelings, and other compostable materials before planting runner bean plants outside in May or June.  This method will help to make the soil in that area more water retentive and will provide extra nutrients, too.  Mulching is also be very beneficial for runner bean plants – it’s best to mulch your plants with a layer of homemade compost or peat-free compost after you’ve given your plants a generous watering.  It’s vital to water runner bean plants at least twice a week in dry weather.  This is imperative whilst your runner bean plants are in bloom.  Be generous with your watering – why not set up a water butt to help you collect rainwater for your plants?  Try to avoid wetting your runner bean plants’ leaves if you can; direct the spout or hose at your plants’ roots.

‘Snowstorm’ is a climbing runner bean that will grow up to a minimum of 2m (6.5ft) tall and taller.  If you’re growing ‘Snowstorm’, it’s important to provide your runner bean plants with a sturdy support frame that is strong enough to hold the mature runner bean plants, along with a hefty harvest of runner beans.  It’s vital that your support frame will be robust enough to withstand high winds and storms.  We think of summer weather as being relaxing and calm, but at times summer and early autumn weather can be surprisingly stormy; just an afternoon of windy weather can destroy an inadequate runner bean support frame.

Harvest runner beans regularly.  Pick every day if you can – the more beans you pick – the more your plants will produce.  Never leave full-size runner beans in place on your plants.  Even if you cannot eat all of the beans your plants produce, pick all those that are ready to be harvested.  Once a bean pod is allowed to develop full size beans, the plant’s production will rapidly slow down or will soon stop altogether.  Why not give your left over beans to your neighbours or freeze them?  Runner beans make delicious steamed vegetables, but these tasty beans can be used in a wide variety of dishes from salads, stir fries, curries, lasagna, pickles and chutneys.

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