Runner Beans have always been one of the families “cash crops” of choice, the preferred variety being “Enorma”.
I remember as a child helping dad water and pick the beans during the season (the ones I could reach anyway) and then watching mum prepare them and “salt them down” for the winter.
With the advent of home freezing production went up a gear, and after Gloria and I moved back into the family home we continued the tradition.
Growing the beans in raised beds with improved soil and regular watering improved both the quality and the size of the crop. We soon discovered that just a single 8′ raised bed with twenty-four plants produced enough beans, both fresh and frozen, for us to feast on them two or three times a week for a year. Even now, living on my own, just twelve plants produce more than enough for me, with a good few to give away as well.
The runner beans started the evolution of the modular raised bed design because I wanted to be able to rotate the crop year-on-year and after a couple of years using a Heath Robinson arrangement of freshly coppiced hazel, some of which started to take root in the beds, I decided upon the current arrangement of 15mm copper pipe, plumbing fittings and bamboo canes.
The frame on its own tends to flex so moving it from one bed to another was a two-person job, however, further thought, tile batten with shaped ends cut to the correct length and bungees means that with a little care I can now move it on my own.
To attach the canes to the support pipes I originally experimented making “elastic bands” from an old rubber inner-tube salvaged from my wheelbarrow which gave good results but did not play well with the weather and soon perished. Re-usable cable ties, whilst not as recycling friendly do the job and last a year or two before disintegrating.
Once the canes are fixed to the support pipes the whole structure becomes much more rigid and stands up to the vagueries of the British summer well.