Runner Bean Scarlet Emperor
Along with cabbages and cauliflowers, runner beans are an iconic part of the British veg patch; making a wonderful sight with their rampant foliage and scarlet flowers. In contrast with cabbages and cauliflowers, they're a darned sight easier to grow! They're less troubled by pests and mature far more quickly.
Scarlet Emperor is a heritage variety, first introduced in 1633! It's a particularly heavy cropper, producing lots of long straight pods from July onwards.
You will need to create a wigwam or row of bamboo canes for the plants to wind themselves up. If you don't fancy this, choose our french bean tendergreen which needs no support.
Time from seed to plate: 12 weeks
Runner beans can be sown directly in the ground, but they are vulnerable to frost, so we tend to sow them inside in rootrainers. Fill eight rootrainer cells with compost and push two beans into each one. Water well and place on a warm bright windowsill or in a green house. If more than one seedling comes up in any of the cells, pull out and discard the smallest. It seems brutal, but there's only space for one!
If you want to sow directly in the ground push two beans in a couple of inches deep at the bottom of each cane. Discard the weaker one if both come up.
By the end of May, when the frosts are well and truly over, plant out your beans. Make sure your soil has plenty of compost added because this will help retain moisture which beans love.
Grow them up a wigwam of 8 bamboo canes, or if you've got more space, up two parallel rows of canes about 2ft apart sloping inwards and tied to a horizontal bar in between. Plant firmly, at the bottom of a cane, ensuring there's 6-12 inches between plants.
Scatter round some organic slug killer because the stems are vulnerable at this stage.
Runner beans are exceptionally heavy croppers. Once they start producing, try and pick twice a week otherwise the beans get rather leathery.
When your plants do ultimately finish cropping. cut them down to the ground, but leave the roots in the soil because they add valuable nitrogen to benefit your next crop.