How to grow runner beans: 10 best vegetables to plant in May

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For most gardeners, summer isn’t complete without a thriving vegetable patch. The vast majority of UK vegetables are sown between March and June, so whether you’re a seasoned gardener or novice, there’s no better time to start planning and planting your vegetable patch than now.

Growing your own vegetables doesn’t just provide you with good garden aesthetics and a large sense of achievement, they’re also great money-savers.

Marcus Eyles, horticultural director at Dobbies, said: “We commissioned research this year, which found that 40 percent of people plan to do more with ‘grow your own’ this year.

According to a study by consumer choice company Which?, it would cost around 83p to grow 1kg of mangetout at home, whereas if you were to buy the same volume from a supermarket, it’d cost you a less attractive figure of £7.

But it’s not just mangetout which can help cut costs; there are many more household favourites you can save on by making the swap from shop-bought to home-grown.

Runner beans are not only a household favourite, but they’re also a particularly productive and easy crop to grow, due to how fast they germinate.

Mr Eyles said: “Runner beans are a fantastic vegetable for gardeners of all experiences to grow. They’re available in different varieties, all of which sprout beautiful flowers as well as delicious produce, making them aesthetically pleasing for your garden as well as tasty.”

May is the perfect month to get started on your runner beans patch, and with this in mind, spoke to some experts to find out how’s best to grow them – as well as other good vegetables for May in case runner beans aren’t for you.

How to grow runner beans

Mr Eyles said: “Due to the nature of runner beans, they need to be protected from frost at all times, which is why just now is the perfect time to plant them as the weather heats up.”

Follow Marcus’s simple steps to ensure the best growth for your runner beans:

  1. Use peat-free compost and create a hole for your seed that is approximately two inches deep
  2. Space each bean seed out at least six inches apart and be sure to only plant one seed per hole
  3. Cover the seed hole with more compost and remember to water the seeds when they start to dry out
  4. To train your bean plant, create a wigwam support with four bamboo canes, placed in a circle and tied at the top. Using the same planting method, place a seed at the base of each cane, and loosely tie each plant as it grows around the cane
  5. For outdoor seeds, make sure the area you sow in is in a warm position that’s protected from any cold weather in late spring
  6. As they grow, check your runner beans daily, ensuring they have enough water, as these are extremely thirsty plants
  7. Once your runner beans are ready for harvest at about 15cm long, pick them every two to three days for the best results. This will allow them to keep flowering and producing beans throughout their season

Mr Eyles said: “An extra tip to help maximise your crop is to let a few of your beans get slightly bigger at the end of summer.

“Pick these crops and dry them out to use as seeds next year. And of course, be sure to enjoy your home-grown produce – runner beans make the perfect summer side salad drizzled with some balsamic vinegar!”

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What other vegetables are best to plant in May?

As well as runner beans, there are a number of other vegetables to add to your garden that will thrive in May.

Shroopa Patel, garden and outdoor living category manager at OnBuy told “Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or this is your first time starting a vegetable garden, it’s always a good idea to choose easy-to-grow vegetables that are quick to crop and hardy.

“Particularly with how unpredictable the British weather can be!”

Ms Patel provided the following list for May:

  1. Beetroot
  2. Carrots
  3. Broad beans
  4. Potatoes
  5. Lettuce
  6. Parsnips
  7. Peas
  8. Radishes
  9. Rocket
  10. Spring onions

Tom Hilton, director of hydroponic specialists at National Greenhouse told a few tips: “The exact technique of planting each plant seeds will differ slightly, depending on the vegetable’s growing needs.

“For instance, for beetroot, you’ll need to ensure the seeds are scattered sparingly so that there’s enough room between each one. And for carrots, sow them in rows and invest in some fleece to fight against carrot flies.”

He continued: “You can use hydroponic trays for your indoor growing methods to build a sustainable nutrient-feeding set-up. For the larger vegetables like lettuce, make sure to sow the seeds under cover.”

Mr Eyles said: “Earth up your early potatoes to prevent tubers from being exposed to the light and turning green.

“If you have not done so already, plant main-crop potatoes now for a ready supply from late summer into the autumn.

“With quick growing crops such as salads and spinach, repeat sow every 10 days to ensure a consistent supply of fresh leaves.”

And with all crops, it’s important to try your best to protect your seeds from slugs.

Mr Eyles said: “For non-chemical control, apply nematodes to the surrounding soil as an effective organic control or use barrier pellets.”

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