This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
Although cultivated as an annual, the Runner Bean is really a perennial plant, and produces large Dahlia-like roots. It is a native of South America, and like its cousin, the Dwarf or French Bean, is much more tender than its other relative the Broad Bean. Owing to the expensiveness of staking, market-garden and farm cultivation does not really bring out the capabilities of a Runner Bean crop. A few years ago, by growing 66 plants 1 ft. apart in a row 70 ft. long, running north and south, 312 lb. of edible pods were picked - just under 5 lb. to each plant. As 7000 plants 1 ft. apart, in rows 6 ft. asunder, could be got on an acre of ground, it would be possible to obtain from 30,000 to 35,000 lb. of pods to the acre. The usual crop averages from 10.000 to 13,000 lb., while the stems and leaves weigh a little more than half. [J. W].
The Runner Bean is a crop grown by cultivators who would style themselves farmers more than market gardeners, yet it can be claimed as a market-garden crop. Sowings are made in May in drills 2 ft. 6 in. or 3 ft. apart. Most market gardeners will have a crop already in the ground on which the Runner Beans are planted. At one time the Beans were planted 5 ft. from row to row and staked. This plan has now been abandoned in favour of placing the rows closer together and stopping the twining stems by frequently pinching off the tops. It is curious that a German grower visiting this country in the summer of 1910 expressed himself as most struck among all the things he saw on a market garden by this plan of stopping Runner Beans. [w. g. l].
A large area is devoted to this crop in the Evesham district. Seldom do late Runner Beans pay for sending to market, though the cause for that is somewhat mysterious: because it is a common experience to learn that the public cannot obtain Beans for love or money in September - unless they themselves grow them - yet the Beans realize nothing if sent to the wholesale market. Such being the case, the grower's chief objective is earliness. Early Runner Beans are valuable, and some risk is de-liberately incurred in order to obtain an early supply of pods. Not only are warm positions given the crop, but seed is sown very early, so early, that the plants are through the soil long before there is likely to be any immunity from frost; but their destruction or injury is risked. Often the risk has been successful, particularly in positions not too low; but Beans in the latter positions are frequently injured.
Sowing takes place at the end of April and beginning of May; and the Beans are sown in rows at 3 ft. apart. To the ordinary reader this distance suggests a serious error; but in the market gardens of Worcestershire generally, sticks are not used to Runner Beans, they are kept dwarf by systematic topping - weekly at first - directly the plants commence to extend their shoots in search of support. A few growers do use sticks, but they are in a very small minority. As bean sticks are nearly always expensive, and in some places unobtainable, their cost is thus saved, and so is the time that would have been required to fix the sticks in the ground in summer and their removal in autumn. By the regular topping, to which allusion has been made, the Beans are kept within the 3 ft. allotted to them. Which of the two systems will prove the more profitable largely depends upon the local demand for Beans and the supply of sticks. In the market-gardening districts the sticks are not used. [J. U].