The runner bean or scarlet runner belongs to a handful of vegetables which can be seen everywhere in summer - clambering up bamboo wigwams, climbing up plastic netting or twining around strings or stout poles. The long, flat pods are the favourite home-grown beans in Britain- a wise choice when you remember that a 10 ft double row can produce 60 lb or more between August and the arrival of the first heavy frosts of winter. You will not achieve anything like this yield if you treat runner beans like the 'easy' crop described in some catalogues. You need to prepare the ground thoroughly in winter and weekly watering will be neccessary in dry weather once the pods have begun to form.

It is essential to pich every other day in late summer even if you have to throw away the pods. If you let a few pods reach maturity, the flower-producing mechanism switches off- annoying, but unavoidable. These beans are prolific providers of fresh food, but there is also a decorative aspect- a row forms a dense, attractive screen and a bean-covered wigwam in the border makes a bightly-coloured focal point when in full flower.

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