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Clearing up my vegetable plot this autumn I have found several young runner beans have self seeded and have put up new plants currently 10-15cm high. I've not seen this before but we have had a very mild autumn.

Are these viable seedlings and would they produce proper runner beans in the spring? Would they give me a much earlier crop of runners (which would be great as it's always a long wait till August for a runner bean crop).

All this assumes of course I can get them through the winter (I would of course bring them under glass). Am I even going to be able to keep them alive, as runners are not of course traditionally an autumn sown crop?

  • Is there something you would like me to add to my answer? – J. Musser Feb 11 '15 at 16:08
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The stress from overwintering and moving will detract from the advantage given by the advanced growth of the plant, and they will likely not produce near as much as a regular crop. If they are overwintered in a cool environment, so as to impede growth (otherwise the plant will age out) and keep all beans (if any) picked as they appear, you will get an early crop. Beans like high temperatures, so they will produce best under glass even after frost has passed, in the spring.

Runner beans have far more potential than bush beans, because they don't have a determinate crop period, but they are still limited, and age out eventually. So the best overwintering conditions are:

  • as bright light as possible
  • high phosphorus, low nitrogen fertilizer
  • cool, but not cold temperatures (between 55 and 60 degrees F. is ideal)
  • keep the soil drysh, overwatering will be fatal
  • If you move them out in spring, do so gradually so the plants can harden off
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