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Scarlet Runner Beans - perennial!?!

 
pollinator
Posts: 2279
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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So today's random internet rambling have taken me on a merry path - I found a fascinating series of articles on efforts to produce perennial grain crops. Sounds great in theory but they don't seem to be quite there yet.

One particularly interesting bit was the discovery that runner beans are a tender perennial - with shelter they will survive the winter and resprout vigorously from the same root stock. We've grown runners as annuals for years and never knew that.

I'm now trying to think how to use it - we are experimenting with an area of "back to eden" wood chip garden this year. Would say 6 inches of wood chip be sufficient winter protection for the roots through a UK winter? Some other places were talking about lifting the roots and storing in a cool cellar, or swaddling an area in straw or fleece.

Any thoughts? Anyone grow their runners as perennials?

Mike
 
pollinator
Posts: 439
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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Not easily perennial here either, but a super-easy annual to save and grow! The way the big seeds burst out through mulch, it's easy enough to place them each year where I need them..
 
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I do!
Kent's climate's reasonably temperate, yes? Actually, I think runners would usually survive the winters in most of the UK.
And there's many, many varieties. I grow some scarlet runners, mainly because they just keep coming up...
My maincrop is a runner with huge white beans and white flowers. It has many local names, one is 'white butterfly runner'.
It's hugely productive, drought, cold and heat tolerant, good as a green bean, fantastic dried, and it even does the washing up
 
Posts: 25
Location: Gardner, MA
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Glad I found this thread.  I had read about these in The 2 Hour Garden by Roger Grounds, and was curious about them because I like beans.  

One of the reasons I found this thread is because today I saw a hummingbird feeding on ours, which surprised me.  So I started researching them more, and found a link to here after I read on wiki that they were perennials and I searched trying to figure out if I could manage that here.  

Apparently the hummingbird attractant factor is a well known thing, and I'm late to learning the fact.  I'm in 5b, so I don't know if I can cover keep the two that made it from three planted this year.  We still have a lot of seeds left over from what we bought, plus we'll have whatever seeds from the plants as well for next year.

Here's a picture of ours, taken July 16th.  We were late getting things in the ground this year (first year with our kitchen garden).  They were planted on June 1st.
 
steward
Posts: 4665
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I grow a genetically diverse selection of runner beans. One year I dug the plants in the fall, and sent those with large rhizomes to a friend in a warmer climate. Only some of the plants had roots that looked like they might be perennial: 3 plants out of 100. So I'm speculating that some varieties might be more perennial than others. Also, based on my results, some varieties are likely to store much more energy in the roots, and thus may be able to get themselves started much more robustly in the spring. And it seems like perennial-ness would be an easy trait to select for if starting with a genetically diverse population.



My collaborators and I have written more about this at: http://alanbishop.proboards.com/thread/8919/over-winter-runner-bean-roots
 
Posts: 29
Location: Vancouver Canada zone 8b
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I bought some Czar white runner beans from Real Seeds Uk shortly before they stopped shipping internationally. They are a great seed company and I miss them. I live in zone 8 Canada near Vancouver and I overwintered one by chance in a large plastic pot. The bean grew the following year quickly and was the first to set beans and is a monster. We had a lot of snow last winter and apart from some mulch I didn’t set out to pamper it. Will definitely save seed this year just in case though.
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pollinator
Posts: 548
Location: South of Capricorn
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how intriguing!! I always plant them at the end of summer when the normal pole beans are done and had no idea. (I am in 9B, we get a few hard frosts but even on those days it usually warms up during the daytime.)  they will grow during the winter but tend to poop out as it gets colder. The flea beetles push them over the cliff, usually, I suppose since there's not much else for them to eat. By the time the pods are dry I pull the whole mess and feed the vines to the rabbits, never thought to see how long they will last. Next time I'll have to experiment!

the hummingbirds do love them. so do the bean weevils! they grow well from collected seeds but they need to be stored in the freezer.
 
Posts: 99
Location: New Zealand
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My grandmother had a runner bean plant that resprouted every year for at least 30 years in her vegie garden. They are herbaceous perennials here rather than evergreens.  I tried them as a living mulch but the cultivars I tried only survived a few seasons. They are best in a coolish moist climate, my 3" rain per month summer is too dry for them to remain perennial without irrigation.
 
Tereza Okava
pollinator
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Location: South of Capricorn
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Ben Waimata wrote:They are best in a coolish moist climate, my 3" rain per month summer is too dry for them to remain perennial without irrigation.


Ah, this may be at play here too then, we tend to have a dryish but cool winter (30-60 days with no rain).
 
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I grew a big tuber by accident. I planted the "black coat runner bean" variety. Apparently, they usually suffocate when you put them 2" deep in pure red clay (I'll try again by placing the seeds on top of the ground and covering them with mulch), so only the only plant that came up was in nice garden soil. It made about four dry beans total (probably because I kept eating the flowers). It stopped producing flowers after the first bean pod matured, so after the rest matured (about halfway through the 150 day growing season) it put all of its energy into producing tubers, I guess.

I could see this being bred into a raw eating vegetable. It tastes like jicama, but doesn't give me gas.

I'm going to try planting the tuber to see if that gives me a plant. I damaged it a bunch when taking it out, so I'm not sure how well it's going to do. Does anyone have any advice on storing this over winter? I'm probably going to go with the "dig a big hole, throw root vegetables in, and cover" method.
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Posts: 106
Location: Central Indiana
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Anyone had experience with these in something like zone 6a?  Was curious how they would winter in a colder moist area.  Thinking of growing some here.
 
Posts: 49
Location: Southeastern Louisiana
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I once had a pepper plant produce well into winter... never occurred to me to try and see how long it'd last! I wonder if they'd do well here... hmmm...
 
Jonathan Ward
Posts: 106
Location: Central Indiana
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My experience with pepper plans (for example green bell) is they'll keep producing for like 3 yrs if you can bring them in or if they're somewhere it doesn't freeze.
 
Alexis Richard
Posts: 49
Location: Southeastern Louisiana
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Jonathan Ward wrote:My experience with pepper plans (for example green bell) is they'll keep producing for like 3 yrs if you can bring them in or if they're somewhere it doesn't freeze.


REALLY?

Well dang now I've got to try that!
 
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