Runner Bean ‘St George’

Family: Fabaceae

Runner bean ‘St George’ is a very ornamental runner bean cultivar that produces striking red and white bi-coloured flowers.  This is an ideal choice of runner bean if you’re looking to grow decorative, yet flavourful, edible plants.

‘St George’ is a climbing runner bean that will grow up to a minimum of 2m (6.5ft) tall.  All tall climbing runner bean plants require substantial support frames that are strong enough to hold full-sized runner bean plants, along with the weight of their beans, but are also robust enough to hold the beans and plants whilst withstanding high winds and storms.  We think of summer weather as being relaxing and calm, but at times the weather can be surprisingly stormy – just an afternoon of windy weather will destroy an inadequate runner bean support frame.  Don’t make the mistake of installing a substandard strength wigwam or frame for your runner beans.  Runner bean support frames can be made ahead of time.  Before you sow runner bean seeds or plant out your runner bean plants, your runner bean plants’ support frame must be installed and in place.

Runner beans are available to purchase as seeds, or occasionally as plants – try your local garden centre or search for online retailers and mail order suppliers.  Plants tend to be significantly more expensive than seeds.  Runner beans are easy to grow from seed – I’d encourage you to try sowing your own seeds, if you can.  By choosing to grow runner bean plants from seed you can widen your choice of the cultivars you can grow.

You don’t need a greenhouse or any fancy equipment to grow runner beans.  I garden in the South of England; I sow my first runner bean seeds in around the middle of May, (late spring) and I’ll also happily sow runner bean seeds in 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 according to the location.  Usually, by the time we’ve reached the 1st June, most UK gardeners can relax and 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 the middle of June.

Plant ‘St George’ runner beans in your brightest, sunniest location.  Choose a sheltered spot, away from the prevailing wind.  Runner beans 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 ‘St George’ seeds in tall containers of homemade compost or a good quality peat-free compost and plant out before they show any interest in climbing.  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 fertile moisture-retentive soils.  To improve the water holding capacity of the soil, runner bean enthusiasts often dig a runner bean trench in autumn and fill the trench with shredded newspaper, cardboard, vegetable peelings, and other compostable materials before sowing runner bean plants seeds outside from the middle of May or planting out runner bean plants June.  This method will help to make the soil in that area more water retentive and will provide extra nutrients, too.  Mulching the area with homemade garden compost is also be very beneficial for runner bean plants.  For successful runner bean growing it’s vital to water runner bean plants at least twice a week in dry weather.  This is wise at all times, but regular irrigation is absolutely 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?

Harvest runner beans regularly.  Pick every day if you can – the more beans you pick – the more beans your runner bean plants will produce.  Never leave full-size runner bean pods 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, a local food bank, 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.

Runner bean ‘St George’ (also known by its botanical name, Phaseolus coccineus ‘St George’) was bred by UK company, Tozer Seeds.

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