Half Runner Dry Beans (P. vulgaris)

Photo shows the 2022 harvest of what I call my half runner dry bean landrace. For some reason the diversity in this mix is exploding, quite a few of the strains shown in the photo I have never seen before this particular harvest. Some of the seeds were originally semi vining Lofthouse variants I pulled out of my bush dry bean landrace so that might explain how quickly this landrace mix is changing, as he has very diverse seeds. The parameter range I have set for this landrace is any vining plant ranging from semi-vining strains to strains that have vines up to approximately five feet in height. This landrace is for dry bean production only, bean sizes are smaller and many strains are more rounded oval shape (like the size and shape of navy beans) than my full height pole bean strains. The flavor and texture of these dry beans are both very good. I let the vines trail up a 50 inch high cattle panel, making them easy to harvest while sitting in a chair (which I seem to need more and more as the years go by). Annual yields tend to be consistently very good. If I were not so interested in diversity and having backups I would abandon my full height pole bean landrace and grow this vining landrace exclusively, not thrilled anymore about always having to use a step ladder to harvest many of my pole beans (some of my full height pole bean strains reach 10-12 feet in height).

[Edit to Add] I would be seriously remiss to neglect to mention that the original nucleus of this landrace was seeds given to me by a local elderly lady who grew them her entire life. She has since passed on. I was the only person who showed any interest in her seeds, nobody in her extended family even gardened anymore. I told her I would always cherish them, and I have. Her seeds were a mix of single and multicolored seeds that she claimed all came from one original variety. I do not know what that is called, is it a true grex or perhaps an inbred hybrid swarm? I get confused on the terminology…

As I alluded to previously, any semi vining strains that appear in my bush dry bean landrace get selected out and placed into this half runner landrace. I engage in dense planting of my bush dry bean crop to save space, semi viners in my bush bean plants create a lot of tangle problems that cause moldy/rotten pods during cool, humid, or rainy weather so I want them out, and they seem to thrive in the half runner planting. My pole dry bean landrace is for full height pole beans that vine 6 feet high and taller.

I also have a half runner snap bean landrace but ran into issues with chewy, fibrous pods. Most of the beans in this snap bean landrace are crossed variants of heirloom and modern white seeded varieties but there are exceptions.


Very cool. Do you plan on sorting out an equilized sample for planting like Joseph Lofthouse does? Making sure to pick out any few new beans and not having a few types take over.

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I will try to select out a representative sample for the 2023 planting, but variations are so numerous and slight that it might be a bit difficult. I also have to be sure and backcross because my 2022 harvest was so noticeably different from 2020 and 2021 that it actually startled me, and made it a lot of fun while hand shelling all the dry pods. I have no solid theory or explanation for such radical differences in only one or two growing seasons for P. vulgaris beans, other than the influence of Joseph Lofthouse’s seed lines.

I have seeds going back ten years in my collection, backcrossing is becoming difficult because I would need to do a larger growout to fully represent all the variation in this collection. Nice problem to have, I guess.

I have problems sometimes with some, sometimes a lot, of my semi-vine beans reverting to either bush or full pole type. I’ve made me fifty individual small trellises to use this year and am going to plant just one type of seed on each one to help me get them sorted out and back in line. They are just nine feet high so some beans will probably flop back down from the top but if I get good harvest from those that don’t, I might not plant the giant one’s next year. Each trellis has room for six or seven vines and since they won’t be mixed on the individuals trellises, it will also help me get an idea of how many are off type form the seeds planted.

The trellises are sections of heavy woven wire, cut into nine-foot lengths and then cut length wise into sections with three or four weaves. Just three or four t-posts per row with a single run of electric fence wire near the top provides the support. I took out cross sections to make prongs on the bottom and then just leaned the trellises against and tired them to the wire. They are very light weight and very strong. The t-posts are going to be permeant from now on and the trellises easily moveable.

No more screwing with building, moving and messing with bean trellises, if I can’t reach the dry beans at the top, I’ll just cut the strings and drop the trellis. Pictures of the bare wire did not show up well, but they should be very photogenic when the vines are on them.


I look forward to maybe seeing a photo or two this summer of your setup. I hope I get around to taking trellis photos out in the gardens as well but I get so busy that picture taking quickly drops to low priority, and before I know it I missed my best photo opportunities.

I gave up on moving trellises and I have seen no negative effects. I still believe in the concept of rotation, but now I value its importance only with certain crops such as corn/maize, tomatoes, onions, and Irish potatoes.

I started planting double rows of vining beans and trailing them all up the same trellis. One row on each side of the trellis, I orient all the trellises East-West. Seems to work quite well and I am getting larger harvests in the same amount of space and for mostly the same amount of effort.

I’m excited to see how my beans turn out. I have bush beans, Lofthouse from EFN. And pole bean grex from the seed swap. And Succotash bean, also pole. I’m separating them a bit but not too worried about if they did cross somehow. I’m growing them separate to see if I really prefer bush or pole or I’ll just throw them all into one grex. The Succotash bean is really interesting.

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Sounds like fun, and I wish you a successful growing season. I consider what you are doing to be trialing, and I think it to be a wise habit to get into. I do this all the time with new acquisitions, I trial them separately from my landraces so I can observe/verify traits and to see if they are true to type and worthy of inclusion in a specific landrace. Regarding P. vulgaris beans, on occasion I have received bush beans that were supposed to be pole beans, and pole beans that were supposed to be bush beans, or a mixed combination which would have been very problematic if I had not found this out before mixing them in. By isolating and trialing I am able to introduce strains into the correct landrace, only rarely do I find a strain of little value to me and usually those strains just had poor production that left me unsatisfied.

I think I can correctly assume that the majority of us here are amateur gardeners/growers/plant breeders, so such innocent and unintentional mistakes can happen when acquiring seeds from each other. It is nice to catch the errors before they become a bigger issue. Maybe not a big deal for you now, but after shepherding a successful landrace for a decade or two one tends to get very protective of it. A really good example would be unintentionally introducing a hot pepper strain into a sweet pepper landrace and ruining the landrace, which could have been avoided had one simply trialed the new strain in an isolated growout first. (Such an example is another reason to keep properly dated and labeled seeds from previous harvests, so a person can go back to the last year before the landrace was contaminated.)

Oh, and do not completely trust commercial seeds in purchased packets. Quite a few times over the years I have purchased seeds from retail sources that were not true to the packet label. I have heard that such errors got especially bad during the seed shortage of 2020/2021, I had problems myself with several tomato varieties I was trialing. I have strong suspicions some of it was intential profit taking at various stages of the seed supply chains to take advantage of unusual demand and not enough supply, but I have no proof of that.


Although I don’t intend making any effort in landracing beans, apart from keeping an eye out for possible crosses, I do want to select half runner dry beans (called semi-dwarf here) to grow with corn, sunflowers, broomcorn etc. I’ve been doing this by growing bush beans and paying close attention to their growth habit. So far I’ve collected three - Molasses Face, Nez Percé and an unknown bean I got in a trade - that are easy to grow and thresh and that I enjoy eating. Others I’ve eliminated because of difficulty threshing, cooking unreliably (some remain hard), too long to mature etc. It’s a fun project.


Never occurred to me that people might find this landrace useful for interplanting or three sisters-type growing strategies, very interesting. This has always been a full sun landrace so I do not know how much that would affect such growing strategies, if at all. I do not engage in interplanting as I have been generally unsatisfied with the results of my various interplanting experiments over the years, the problem was primarily reduced yields of the interplanted crops. I also like to have clean, organized gardens which is a vestige, perhaps impractical, of how I was taught to grow stuff, a gardening method that is getting harder and harder to do as I get older and my physical ability declines. I know for a fact that weed pressures and competition for sunlight and soil moisture/nutrients reduces both yields and quality of yields by increasing pest/disease/mold/rot pressures at least in my particular situation. Finally, I have enough land to work with so I do not need to interplant to save space, negating what I consider to be the primary benefit of such strategies.

One of my food production areas, May 2020:

Some of my half runner strains are tending to shatter during harvesting. Not thrilled about this but they are some of the best beans regarding cooking and flavor. Not a really big problem at this point as long as they do not start shattering on their own while just hanging there.

I have been thinking seriously about keeping only the smaller navy bean-type strains and selecting out all the others, my instinct is telling me it is the right thing to do. It would set back the diversity of the mix quite a bit but I do not know that diversity should be the overall deciding factor one way or the other. With all my landraces I struggle with selecting against diversity even when I know it is the right thing to do, but ultimately selecting for food quality/production/yield have to be my bottom line priorities.


My gardens are both rather small and one has considerable shade. I’ve noticed, definitely that some beans do fine in the shady parts, and some don’t. I think, in fact that some may actually prefer the shade. I’ve seen the same thing in planting beans to grow on corn, some like it and some don’t.

You will sometimes hear the term, cornfield bean, I don’t think that applies to just any bean but rather those that are happy in the shade of the corn and just because the catalog description uses that term doesn’t mean that variety really is a cornfield bean. Most actual “cornfield beans” I’ve seen have really big leaves and usually big beans as well and the vines are also very large, and I discovered them by accident. I don’t grow that way because the beans do not stay on a single corn stalk; they flop around and tie the stalks together and turn the patch into a tangled mess. If I plant beans and corn to together, at about the same time, I only plant beans on the outside row, where it gets less shade and about any bean is happy that way.

My favorite way to grow beans and corn together is to plant my corn and when the ears are nicely mature and beginning to dry down, I strip off the lower leaves and stick a couple beans at the base of each stalk. Later I strip off the rest of the corn leaves. Or less commonly I’ll plant corn between the rows of an early bush bean patch when the beans are about ready to harvest. It’s generally getting hot by then so when the beans are picked the vines are left there to shade and mulch the ground under the corn. But I don’t grow a lot of bush beans anymore, I don’t like picking them and often a downpour will knock the down and splash them with mud, which makes harvest of dry beans a mess.

Some of mine do that too, I hate it. Not to total exclusion but I’ve started selecting against that. Seems like many with very spherical seeds want to do that. Its weather related too, warm with low humidity helps trigger it. The pods sometimes start to split when they aren’t even dry, so when I see a few like that I go ahead and pick them and finish drying them in paper sacks.


If they shatter, you tend not to get seeds because they fall to the ground, right? It seems like if you just leave them when that happens, they’ll be selecting against themselves automatically. Or maybe I’m misunderstanding?

No, you’re not misunderstanding, that is exactly what would happen if left on their own, but I like those beans and don’t want them to completely self-eliminate.