Runner Beans are notorious for being water gluttons! An older method of water retention as well as feeding them is the bean Trench, I spent quite a while searching for a decent short video online but didn’t find anything that had the relevant correct method so I will be describing it as below (Many video’s online show only some newspaper or cardboard then it is topped with loads of rotting vegetables with Zero (0) browns such as mixed cardboard or rotting leaves in-between! Don’t follow that  at all), it creates a horrible pungent smell and attracts flies, you cannot ever expect good compost material if you only add in nitrogen / sugar rich matter and ignore the browns / Carbons to balance it all out … (rant over).

My advance apologies for not having photo’s as well, my bean trenches are actually not ”standard” as my soil is actually quite nutrient rich already, I have many other larger projects going on as well so I only dug a small 20cm wide by 10+ cm deep trench as a mini experiment. How is it you ask, that I can post a ”how to” on Bean Trench creation if this is my first experimental one? Because it really is a similar concept to Hugelkultur / Hugel Mounds which I have built or been involved in building quite a few over the last four years, the only main difference is the absence of Wood / Logs.

bean trench

Runner Bean Trench Layers – Organic Gardening

METHOD:

  1. Select your growing area and dig a trench about one spade blade depth and the width of a spade blade sideways (make notches at the base of the trench as air pockets – these help prevent an anaerobic environment [see image]),
  2. Lay a carpet of Brown Cardboard at the base of the trench and up the sides,
  3. If starting this in Autumn / Early Winter (it’s the ideal time), then drop grass clippings, vegetable and fruit peels, coffee and tea grounds / leaves, even composted and sieved woodchip in – follow the diagram image for the best sequencing of layers,
  4. Cover with your dug-out soil only when you finish filling, you can leave the trench open and fill in gradually over the Winter and merely add a very thin layer of soil every time if you prefer. However, this way may need a mesh net / wire net of some sort to prevent foxes etc from digging around.
  5. Stop filling / adding vegetable scraps etc. into the trench at least 6 weeks to 2 months before you plan on planting the Beans or in the case of a one day trench project, cover with soil  2 months before you intend to plant and ensure you poke a few breathing holes after every rainy day.
  6. In the case of creating a Bean Trench in Spring, you can still line the bottom with Cardboard and fresh grass clippings with some brown rotting leaves, then top this with 6 month to 1 year old compost from your bin/s.

During a mild winter, certain Runner Bean varieties may actually survive underground as a Herbaceous Perennial (The roots go dormant underground and re-sprout in Spring) – one such variety I have experience with is ‘Scarlet’. Thus, as I am expecting some of my Scarlets to re-sprout, I decided to grow Runners in the same spot as last year (partially due to lazyness).

I am likely to still grow a batch of Runner Beans at home or on another section of the Allotment and this is where I will most probably dig a deeper, more traditional trench.

If you like this post then feel free to share it via social media, I do not (I don’t have the time) to share or create multiple accounts for that purpose, this blog is also not monetised and all adverts seen go towards WordPress itself.

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Comments
  1. Helen says:

    I didn’t realise runner beans were water gluttons, although my dad had introduced me to the idea of a trench, as you describe. Having moved to full-blown hugel beds, I’m still waiting to see if they do indeed act like sponges and hold water, so in the meantime I must remember to keep watering…,

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeffpermie says:

      Nice! How old is your first Hugel by now? Mine is about 3-4 years but I didn’t manage well on the fresh greens / Nitrogen rich materials such as manures etc. So I ensured I watered a lot with my ”own water” if you get what I’m implying :). I can’t say how far the bigger logs are in terms of decomposition as they are really quite deep but veggies as well as perennials / fruits seem to be growing quite well there on that particular mound. This upcoming season will be season #2 for my second mound which is on the allotment, and it will subsequently be the first for my latest two mounds which were only installed a couple months ago and two weeks ago respectively, again I didn’t use any manure but loads and loads of chopped greens!

      Regarding Hugels absorbing water, I can only assume that it will only be when the logs are semi composting so, in my opinion this point should only be sometime after year two, unless of course you got older logs in your system which were already decomposing before you got hold of them …

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      • Helen says:

        My oldest bed was built in the summer of 2018, so I guess the wood won’t have decomposed enough to absorb water yet. That said, I didn’t put much wood in – it was mostly more nitrogen-rich ingredients. However, I have sandy loam soil, so by now the nitrogen will either have been used up or leached out. I think I’m going to have to start top-dressing the beds with compost to up nitrogen levels.
        What kind of soil do you have?

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      • jeffpermie says:

        On both sites I have heavy clay, at home it is heavy clay on top of demolition rubble 😦

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      • Helen says:

        So at least your soil holds nutrients 😊

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      • jeffpermie says:

        True! it’s just ‘back breaking’ when you need to dig something like a Hugel though, by the way, not to be rude or anything but, I feel that you should definitely get hold of some logs locally and re-do your hugels, mainly because the whole point of having the logs in there is to absorb water and retain / create nutrients for an extended period of time. You mentioned that you have a sandy soil which hardly holds any nutrients to begin with, I know it is a mission to do / re-do but think of it this way, you already have a hole dug with mostly nitrogen rich greens there already, you just have to remove the top, lay down logs on top of the bed of composting greens with branches, sticks, twigs and some leaves if you can find any, then more fresh greens and put the soil back. Just be sure to add compost on top and use this bed for maybe self seeders like rocket and lambs lettuce with other salads in between. Do this on one Hugel per year until all of them are done.
        Tree surgeons pay loads to dump their chippings so contact around and ask them to keep the logs for you and arrange to pick up, or go to parks in your area with a hand folding saw, there are always dead branches (some quite big) that are shoulder or below height which you can saw and remove (you’d be doing the council a favour as well!)
        Just be sure to let the tree surgeons know that this is not for burning and that it should be free from Armilaria (Honey Fungus) otherwise you will infect your garden and area (takes years / decades before it is done).
        If the tree surgeons are willing to keep logs but not leave them somewhere (don’t want to be laible for any issues) then ask them if they dump chippings for any of the local allotments, if they do, then ask them to drop a few logs together with the chippings and try arrange to get there for the logs.

        For me it was a matter of:
        ”if you are going to make such an effort to dig this whole bed over, then you may as well get the thickest logs possible, thickest branches, sticks and loads of brown leaves to make it all worth it and to ensure hopefully 6-10 years of decomposing matter below ground” … so that’s what I did 🙂

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      • Helen says:

        I’ve realised I made a typo in my last reply – the date should have been 2015 not 2018!!

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      • jeffpermie says:

        Haha, yup I saw that but was thinking maybe you meant 2017.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Helen says:

        And I put more wood in the subsequent beds 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • jeffpermie says:

        Ah ok, so not as bad as I was thinking then 🙂

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      • Helen says:

        Another challenge is having shallow soil. This means if I put too much wood on, there isn’t enough soil to cover the mound. Still, the other beds have sufficient to keep going for a while 😊.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jeffpermie says:

        Ah yes,that too, I guess it is just a step-by-step gradual soil building process for you then. I just hope you are not a renter though.

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      • Helen says:

        No, thank goodness! But yes, soil building is the name of the game 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • jeffpermie says:

        Haha, whomever takes on this flat when I leave or get a termination of contract notice better be into gardening!! the amount of demolition rubble I have removed and the two hugels I put in, I would not like to see that go to waste!! Plus a pond upgrade is in the cards before summer as well …

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      • Helen says:

        Well, hopefully you won’t get a contract termination and will only leave if you move to better pastures.

        With my house being a new-build, I’ve had my fair share of rubble in the garden!

        Liked by 1 person

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