Runner Beans -- Grow reports

This is a follow-up post to this one in the runner grow notes thread. I just didn’t want to overload it!

If you grew runners from the GTS mix this season please consider sharing there :slightly_smiling_face:

Basically I planted half my runner beans in January snow. I wanted to kick start a cold hardy runner landrace by maybe flipping some important epigenetic switches on the surviving plants (if any).

If I could do this again I would just focus on getting any possibly crossed runner beans at all for next season. To me, the biggest takeaway is that growing something you’ve never grown before is in many cases enough of a problem set for the new plants to solve.

At the time I did the cost/benefit analysis, potentially narrowing the genetic diversity in the mix was an acceptable tradeoff to kick-starting perenniality in my climate, as I know that diversity is something I’ll be keeping close tabs on each season and looking to bolster. I also made sure not to plant every bean of a given color pattern.

I also didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get runner beans to produce anything at all in my conditions - - we’re three weeks out from average first frost and maybe two or three months from our first runner flowers. We still don’t have any seed :sweat_smile:.

The runners make flowers and drop them, and sometimes whole plants mysteriously stop growing or wilt and die. The suddenness of these changes, the absence of clear signs of pathogenic stress, and the presence of tunneling rodents on our land makes me suspect rodent damage.

But! The one surviving January-planted runner - - the first to emerge in May - - still has a chance at producing, though it nearly died from visible pest damage (presumably rodent) and has been lately exhibiting the timid growth of a risk-taker who’s been hurt too many times. It has one surviving neighbor (out of four or five planted and at least three germinated) with a similar orange/red flower color that might provide a cross of uncertain benefit. These two runners growing next to our Nanking cherry have been getting some occasional deep waterings

Having planted nearly all the GTS runners, sometime near the beginning of August I started throwing down seeds from this mix. My thinking was they might not have time to produce, but if not, as long as they survived they might provide mature plants for an overwintering trial. I threw some next to elderberries (though the opportunistic but welcome native frost aster might be easier to see), some next to a big lilac (growing but not pictured) , and maybe four into a stand of goldenrod (some growing but not pictured). We got enough rain for them to germinate and get started but then had basically no rain for over a month. I was astounded at how well the young runners managed this long dry spell which included a September with a rainfall down more than 85% from normal.

We had a half inch of rain last week with more in the forecast
this week. The most precocious of the August planted runners, a white/beige flowered one, started to make a pod.

Come on runners!!!

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I think you are likely to need to scale up your quantity of seeds planted. Here’s why. If you plant 20 seeds and they experience 99% mortality, you probably lose them all. If you plant 100 seeds, maybe one survives. If you plant 1000 seeds, you might have 10 survivors. 10 is not even a lot, if they are struggling to set seed successfully. You might rather plant 10,000 seeds. Now that might sound like a lot but it’s just a few pounds of beans. You could make long furrows and plant the seeds closely spaced.
There are vendors that sell larger quantities of seed, so you could buy it. Or, you could grow plants under row cover to extend their season and build up your seed stock incrementally.