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The tripod can be as simple as bamboo stakes tied at the top or as elaborate as antique iron rods wired together. As long as you have three uprights, you have a tripod.
Two recommended runner beans are white-flowering Emergo and red-flowering Scarlet Emperor. Grow a single type or combine them for a red and white effect. For an unusual planting, try Sadie’s Horse Bean, a rare heirloom variety that’s over 100 years old. It has white and red blooms that produce beans in shades of lavender, brown, chocolate, white, pink and black. It’s available from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
You can direct-sow your beans in mid May, or plant up the container earlier indoors and move the bean garden out two weeks after the last frost. Place the container in a sunny or semi-sunny spot and water and fertilize along with your other annual containers. Runner beans can take cooler conditions than other beans, so a partly sunny spot will provide enough light and heat for bloom and fruit production. Harvest and enjoy the beans as they mature.
1. Choose your runner beans, and select your tripod and container. Be sure the container has drainage. Purchase enough free-draining sterilized potting soil to fill your container.
2. Fill the container, using 3⁄4 potting soil and 1⁄4 compost or mushroom manure. Sow seeds 3.5 cm (11⁄4 in.) deep, placing them halfway between the centre of the container and the outside edge. Space seeds 5 cm (2 in.) apart for a full display.
3. Set the tripod pieces between where the beans are sown and the edge of the container. Attach them snugly at the top. The full-grown bean tepee will be heavy, so anchor the tripod well by nestling it deeply into the soil – no less than 7.5 cm (3 in.).
4. After the beans germinate and grow enough to attach to the tripod, apply a 2.5-cm (1-in.) layer of bark mulch or mushroom manure to the soil. This will help shade the plants’ roots from the hot summer sun.