Tag Archives: runner beans

Autumn preparations for winter in the garden: part 3!

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 14 October 2016.

Never mind spring cleaning – autumn preparations are essential to protect your garden from the worst of winter. Use our top tips to guide you.

Autumn preparations: tidy up

I am still picking runner beans, and glad of suggestions for what to do with a glut. Within a week or two I will be sad they have ended. One school of thought suggests I leave my runner and climbing French bean plants in the ground until the frosts because until then they will go on fixing nitrogen in the soil – a good thing. Another school says TIDY UP as soon as the last bean is picked. Either way, autumn preparations will require you to cut the plants down, chop them up and put the choppings and roots firmly in your garden compost store.

The same goes for other veg. and flowering plants that are past their best. Even a late spell of sunshine now won’t give you much pleasure, and it is so much nicer working in the garden in autumn sunshine than in winter rain.

Autumn preparations: dig and mulch

Where you tidied up veg. and other short lived plants, dig over the soil with a good fork to loosen it and pull out the weeds. Throw a good layer of well rotted garden compost where you have dug. It will rot more during autumn and winter, help stop the rain compacting the soil or washing it away. And you are ready to dig it in to plant veg. and flowers in the spring and early summer.

Friends living in areas of mild winter weather sow ‘green manure’ on bare winter soil to protect and feed it. Try it if your climate is suitable.

autumn preparations
Compost bins at Potterton’s allotments, East Warwick, showing good lids to keep them warm. Robin Stott. Geograph 4050830. Reuse under Creative Commons licence.

Autumn preparations: keep it warm

Your compost store likes to be warm in winter (don’t we all?). Firm the contents down well, and put a lid on it. Purpose-built compost stores usually have tight fitting lids that keep the warmth in to help the materials rot. If yours doesn’t have a lid make one from carpet, wood or sacks.

Plants you know are tender, or have been advised to protect from cold winds and damp, need to be prepared now for their winter coats. Cut off damaged leaves and any top heavy growth that won’t look good next year, clear weeds and leaves from the bottom of the plant and leave a clean and drier base. Different plants like different wrappings so follow the instructions that came with your plant. Don’t forget to tie the covering firmly or the wind will whip it off and damage the plant in the process.

autumn preparations
Tree fern in a winter coat, Kew gardens. David Hawgood. Geography 1088968. Creative Commons licence for reuse

Autumn preparations: keep it dry

Feet (or even bricks) under your lovely patio pots will keep plant roots out of water that will rot them or freeze the base of the pot.

Spread a little gravel around the base of Mediterranean plants, succulents and plants that love to be baked by the sun. It will stop muck and damp collecting there and rotting the stem or roots.

All preparations done? Time for a sit down and a coffee in a warm conservatory or orangery (see our blog to find out more!).

Runner bean glut? A few suggestions about what you can do

First published by Rattan Direct on 12 August 2016.

Dwarf and runner bean glut. Sarah Buchanan
Dwarf and runner bean glut. Sarah Buchanan


Over the past few months, we’ve been enthusiastically encouraging you to sow and plant vegetables from beans to greens. Now, we hope, your plants have grown and you’re harvesting beautifully fresh produce from your balcony, patio, garden or allotment.

Small harvest or glut?

My experience is a little mixed this year.

Life got in the way and I only managed to plant garlic in February (it likes November better). The heads are fairly small but the taste is excellent. The crop is so small that it will all be used up fresh and there will be none to store. No-one round here is complaining, though, and there’s always next year to have another go.

I sowed an old packet of dill seed in the spring, it all germinated and it’s threatened to take over the plot. I like this herb very much with fish and with potato salad but there is a limit. It’s not quite a glut but pretty near.

Dwarf and runner bean glut. Sarah Buchanan
Dwarf and runner bean glut. Sarah Buchanan

All the signs are there, though, that a real bean glut is in the making – that’s a vast amount of runner and French climbing beans arriving all together, very soon. You may already be inundated. Planning what to do ahead of time makes good sense before the kitchen becomes overwhelmed and friends and neighbours start to cross the road when they see us. You can only eat so many meals which include boiled or steamed runner or French beans, with or without butter. Try some of these alternatives: cold, hot, sour, sweet.

  • Cold in a salad – boil or steam and then add olive oil.
  • Freeze them for your Christmas or other special dinner.
  • French bean flan. I gather guests sometimes think it’s asparagus.
  • Runner bean chutney.
  • Curry – fresh green beans do like assertive flavours such as chilli and mustard. Try this Madhur Jaffrey South Indian-style runner bean recipe.
  • Soup – add green or French beans to minestrone or try this Women’s Institute recipe.
  • Cook beans with tomatoes.
  • Toad in the hole – but with beans and bacon. I’ll be trying this recipe very soon as the blurb says it’s good for overworked cooks, and that is me in a nutshell at present. Bonus: a runner bean and potato curry recipe is also to be found via this link.
  • Xanthe Clay outlines four delicious sounding recipes here: with chorizo, in a mustard dressing, with pangrattato, and with poppyseed and orange. You get two veg gluts for the price of one in this article as there are also four recipes for a courgette glut.
Dwarf and runner bean glut. Sarah Buchanan
Dwarf and runner bean glut. Sarah Buchanan

Full circle

Eating from the garden frees up space to grow yet more. Sow another yard/metre/pot of salad leaves so they mature regularly in succession. I’ve found a bit of space to sow some old turnip and beetroot seed. It may be a little late, the seed may be past its best and not germinate but it’s nothing ventured, nothing gained in gardening!

Bare earth in Somerset, ready to prepare for the next crop. glut
Bare earth in Somerset, ready to prepare for the next crop. Sarah Buchanan

Garden care for vegetable plants: runner and climbing French beans, salad leaves

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 10 June 2016.

Vegetable plants need your care – now!

Garden care for vegetable plants is essential if you want good crops. Here’s some advice on what you need to do to care for your runner and climbing French beans, and how to keep a steady supply of salad leaves for your table.

Garden care for vegetable plants
Ordinary looking runner beans. Simon Speed. Licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Frameworks for runner and climbing French beans

If you followed up our ideas in May on growing beans you will have young plants ready to plant out in the garden. To produce good crops, both climbing French beans and runner beans need a framework to climb up and a good soil to grow in. Here’s how!

  • Decide where your beans are to grow. Clear weeds, dig in lots of well rotted garden compost or leaf mould from your compost bin (if planting climbing French beans, make sure it really is well rotted as the plants may rot themselves in  soggy and damp materials)
  • Firm the soil down
  • Tie canes, about 20cm apart at ground level, into a wigwam or a row, or use garden poles to create a framework to support netting, mesh or a trellis. Not sure where to start on this sort of garden construction?  Try Gardeners’ World, Capel Manor, or YouTube
  • After the risk of frosts has passed, use a trowel to plant one plant per cane, water well and keep watch to encourage the trailing stems to twine round their support
  • In very dry spells use a household plant water spray to damp the flowers lightly to help the beans ‘set’
  • Runner beans like water so don’t be shy about watering them, but climbing French beans can cope with less water and, in fact, don’t appreciate being overwatered so they are a good choice for dry gardens, and busy people.
  • Follow any instructions on the seed packet for the beans you chose.

You didn’t plant any? No problem…

Head for the nearest local fete or garden centre and buy some plants now, because beans really are a good value and colourful veg. to grow.

Garden care for vegetable plants
Runner bean wigwams ready for planting.  Image from Jonathan Wallace’s blog at: ,http://self-sufficientinsuburbia.blogspot.co.uk/

Last year I grew a wigwam of beans in a 60cm diameter pot, tucked into my flower border to fill a gap among the plants. It needed a lot of water, and looked good, but was tricky to reach to pick the beans. Nice idea but not so clever! This year I am putting the wigwam into the soil near the edge of the border and planting one bean per pole. It should be easier to care for and pick the beans I am sure will grow.

Sow for a steady supply of salad leaves

Salad leaves are one of those things we have too much of, or run out of, in my garden. The solution? Successional sowing. This means sowing small amounts of seed often. A 30cm row of thinly sown lettuce, or mixed salad leaves, sown every week or two from now into August will provide young leaves to enjoy rather than endure. Follow our tips for sowing seeds of leafy veg such as spinach and any instructions on seed packets.

garden care for vegetables
Successional sowing of salad leaves or lettuce to ensure a steady supply. Thompson & Morgan salad leaves, ‘Speedy Mix’

What’s not to like?

Care for your vegetable plants for an easy and tasty way to your five a day, and with exercise too.

Gardening really is good for you!