I plant runner beans each year. They always make a giant pile of red flowers (“Scarlet Runners”) and some white (“elephant bean” and others). Usually I get a fair number of pods too. A quart of beans from one year sits in the freezer…
This year, though, something is different. Giant mound of greens (bunny loves that ;-) and loads of flowers (bees love that – 4 kinds now! California Golden Carpenter, some unknown all black smaller bumble bee, the regular honey bees, and a new one, a bumble bee with gold fuzzy patches on the back and legs. I suppose it could just be way overloaded with pollen, but I don’t think so…). Oh, and the hummers just love to tank up on those flowers too. (They nest in the nearby tree sometimes).
But this year, I’ve had maybe 4 or 5 pods all told. Perhaps a dozen beans? At most two dozen. Given that I planted about 10, that’s a dismal ratio. The simple question is: Why?
Here’s a couple of low res pictures (so as not to bomb folks on slow links). IF anyone really really just must have the full res 14 MPixel version, I can provide it, but I can’t imagine a reason to need it.
This is looking up a tree from standing height. The top is about 20 feet up,, and there are red flowers up there. LOADS of leaves in between. This ‘square’ was taken over by this tree while I was in Florida, so I thought I’d put it to good use. The beans are happy to grow up it. There are some hard to see white flowers in the center to right to bottom where I’d planted some Greek Elephant Beans. They, too, are largely not making beans.
Well watered. Lots of pollinators. Growing well. Good size and leaves and flowers. Not too hot ( in prior hot August times they would have a pause as temps went over 95 F, not happening this year as it is much cooler). Do runners have some lower bound of cool at night (like tomatoes that don’t set fruit if it drops under 50 F at night) or what?
There is a second square diagonally placed (forward / right) from this one that also has beans in it. The two of these have conspired to almost cover up the cabbage plants (that cabbage kale hybrid of mine) in the square just in front of this picture (out of frame down). I’ll need to thin it out before they are smothered… here bunny bunny bunny ;-) This next picture is looking at that forward / right bean square. The neighbors have some kind of bush that laid a limb down on my side, and the beans are growing over it toward their side. You can also see them flowing out of frame to the left leaping the 2 foot walkway stones onto the cabbage / kale square…
Again, from full standing height (about 5.5 foot at eye level). This shows two squares ( 4 x 4 foot each) grown together to make an arbor of sorts. ( I put string from the right most square to the limb of the bush over the left most square. The bunny likes to sit under the mountain of beans in the ‘arch’ and nibble any so foolish as to grow downward…)
Under the corn leaves, the darker green leaves are Christmas Limas that have done a dandy job of making beans. Finally figured out that they LOVE water. In prior years, watering like a west coast plant, they sulked. Water them like it is Florida and rains every afternoon in summer and they thrive. These merge in with the background square just outside the corn leaf arc. There you can see the carpet of flowers. It has been like that since about late May or early June. But no beans. Limas make beans. “Snap beans” (Kentucky Wonder cross) make beans. Everything else makes beans. Runners make flowers.
I’ve tried extra water. I’ve tried less water. I’ve tried Miracle Grow (and got a lot more greens) on some. Just not happening.
Sidebar on cages: You can, in the lower foreground, see the Dog Run cages around each square. They are about 3 foot tall. The skinny tall thing mid image is a square foldable ‘tomato cage’ that some Purple Pod beans are going to inhabit shortly. I just replanted that square having taken out some finished yellow straight neck squash. The Purple Pods beans are more cold tolerant and if I’m lucky will produce into about early November.
All Ideas Welcome!
Weather here has been a touch cool, but not extreme. And Runners grow very well in England, much cooler than here. It hasn’t been a hot August, and besides, they have made no beans to speak of from the start. Just one or two stray pods about one a month.
With the evident growth, I can’t imagine it is lack of fertilizer. Being as they are nitrogen fixers, excess nitrogen is unlikely ( I used a more phosphorus rich mix in my attempt to get them to set seeds, and only did that on the ones under the tree). I’ve run water up and nothing happened, and let them dry more and nothing happened but a few browned leaves. Each time with about a month of one state before shifting, so doubt it was “change” causing them confusion.
Then, with two types of runner, I find it unlikely that they are ‘inbred’ and having inbred depression (besides, beans ‘self’ all the time without issues).
‘Tiz a puzzlement…
Here’s a weather graph from Wonderground. It is likely a little cooler here, as the airport is tarmac and full sun / dry. But not more than a degree or three.
Temperature well bounded inside the ‘normal’ lines.
Update: Added Humidity Map
I’m in that yellow dry band south of San Francisco on the edge of Orange.
Come to think of it, the central valley pump hasn’t been running much lately. (Central Valley gets to 100 ish F and heat rises, sucking in a cool moist blanket every few days). So things are more ‘steady dry’…