I had never grown them in tubs/planters before and was a little dubious to say the least. By September I was very popular with the neighbours as I gave so many away, froze as many as I could, my teenagers were threatening me with violence if they had to eat yet another huge portion of beans, the runner beans were more successful than any I had grown in the ground before.
I bought a couple of rigid builders buckets 16″ tall, 22″ across which have useful rope handles, think I got them from Superbuys in Newport they cost about £3 – £4 and are still going strong.
Drilled some holes in the bottom for drainage, had a flash of inspiration and added 2 or 3 bottles of water to weight it down as I had no rocks or bricks. Filled them with a mixture of multi-purpose compost and a soil based one John Innes No 3. Bought a bundle of 7 or 8 ft canes and awaited the arrival of the young plants.
Dad arrived with the beans all 24 of them, eek! I had space for 16. In desperation I put the other 8 plants in 2 concrete planters that were lurking in the corner that I considered were far too small to use, being about 2′ 6″ long, 8″ wide and 8″ deep.
Next problem, only had 10 canes – solution, create a line of beans. Big tub with 4 canes at one end, 2 concrete planters between them, other big tub on the other end with 4 canes in it, tie 2 remaining canes together, bind each end into the top of the two cane wigwams. I tied 8 lengths of green hairy garden string to the cane that ran across the top and tied it around the planter. To get around the problem of only having 4 canes, I drilled 4 holes in the rim of the tub between the canes and tied lines with the hairy string again round a cane at the top and through the hole in the rim. Which also had the bonus of keeping the canes in the tub through that windy Wootton summer.
I seem to remember Bob Flowerdew on Gardeners’ Question Time (Radio 4 – Sunday 2pm) stating that runner beans did not grow as well or like having to climb up hairy string and to always use canes. Sorry Bob but I have to disagree with you on that one – there was no difference in amount of beans, height etc between the ones on canes.
The beans in the big tubs needed around a whole watering can of water each day during the peak of the growing season. I did not use one drop of fresh water on them, I started leaving the plug in the bath when I had a shower which baled out and kept near to them in an old swing top kitchen bin.
If you can afford lots of lovely matching or contrasting glazed/stone or terracotta pots, great but please don’t let lack of cash put you off. You can find/obtain containers to grow things in very cheaply or free, make wooden planters from pallets, and all sorts of imaginative items. I also grew cut and come again lettuce in a hanging basket right outside the kitchen door, spinach in an old stacking storage box, sorrel and landcress in a galvanised bucket that I found in a skip, strawberries in a bread tray lined with a bin liner, cherry tomatoes in cracked pots lined with carrier bags. You can always paint disguise scavenged containers. I will try and get some photos of the various containers that Ventnor Permaculture and IW Permaculture people use this year.
Growing runner beans and other vegetables is ideal if you are renting or only have a patio, you can grow a lot in a small space. Give it a go this year there is nothing better than being able to eat your own veg within minutes of them being picked and it is far cheaper than buying them.