Sunday, 25 February 2018

Easy ways to support climbing beans and peas

Easy wasy to support climbing beans and peas 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Why do beans have poles and peas have sticks? Does it matter? I need both.

On the 80 Minute Allotment, I prefer quick and simple ways to support my climbing beans and peas instead of elaborate and costly structures. Here's how to make simple and inexpensive supports in just a few minutes.


I average about 80 minutes a week on my allotment, so I'm always looking for ways to do things quickly and easily. If you're growing your own in limited time, at home or on an allotment, make sure you subscribe to the Green Fingered Blog for regular time saving updates.


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Easy ways to support climbing beans and peas

It's nearly time to sow peas and beans in small pots or modules indoors. I'll be planting mine out as seedlings in May, after they've had a couple of weeks in a cold frame to adjust to life outside.

Once they get going, climbing beans and peas will need some sort of supporting structure up which to grow. 

Peas and broad beans can grow up to 5 or 6 feet (1.8m) and runner (pole) beans can get taller than that. Even dwarf broad beans and french beans tend to need staking to keep them upright, even though they don't really "climb" in the same way.

Making supports for climbing plants is one of the tasks that's ideal for cool spring days, when it's nice to be out in the fresh air and weak sunshine, but when you need to keep moderately active to stay warm. It's also a good way to get ahead of the game and make things easier later on at planting time.

Luckily, making supports for peas and beans can be straightforward and quick to do.

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Growing peas using netting


The conventional way of growing peas is in rows, with the peas scrambling up a net fixed between two poles or suspended from a cross piece. Peas are planted at the base and allowed to grow up winding through the net, like in the title picture. This is how I grew my peas last year. It worked pretty well, but this year I'm trying something slightly different.

If you're going to use this method, I recommend using a rigid mesh. The simple flexible netting can become quite a tangle and sometimes awkward to deal with. The rigid type once secured will stay in place much more easily. One of my allotment neighbours uses it successfully. If you like this option you can buy it here (Affiliate link):





You may need to push the stems through the holes in the net to encourage them to wind themselves round and stay upright. They are quite good at clinging on using their tendrils so they often don't even need tying in with twine.

When I need to, I use organic garden twine to tie everything in. It's particularly useful to have it on a stand with a built in cutter like the one below (affiliate link). It makes life really easy, you just unwind the amount you need and push it down over the top of the stand, where there's a blade that cuts it off for you. It's easier and safer than holding it and using a penknife.



Growing runner beans on canes


Runner beans are usually grown up canes arranged leaning towards each other and secured at the top by a cane across the top. The beans grow up on each side towards the apex. If each plant has it's own cane, it will wind itself around it with no need to tie it in once it gets going.


Runner bean canes 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Runner bean canes
Nobody in my house is too keen on runner beans, so I'm sticking to broad beans and french beans for now.

Broad beans are so much tastier when freshly picked, compared to bought from a supermarket. And they're quite easy to grow too. Dwarf varieties need to be tied to a simple cane or stick as they grow, to keep them upright. They'll reach about 3 feet (90cm) tall.

Larger varieties of broad bean can reach a similar size to peas, so I'm using the same sort of supports for them.

Dwarf french beans are the type that the supermarkets sell as "fine green beans", and given how many are in each pack, they're not the best value. Home grown ones cost almost nothing, and are tastier for being freshly picked so well worth growing. I grew the ones below last year. 

This many would cost at least £1 in the shops,  whereas I picked loads more like this over last summer, from a packet of seeds that cost less than £2.50. Plus they were grown without chemicals, were fresher when we ate them within minutes of picking them, and were transported a couple of hundred metres on foot instead of thousands of miles by diesel powered trucks. 
French beans 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
French beans, harvested July 2017


Growing peas and beans in containers


French beans reach about 3-4 feet (90-120cm) tall, so can be grown tied to a single cane per plant if grown in rows. I usually also grow some in containers in the garden, making a teepee with four canes tied together in a large pot. This works for peas too, though you tend to need taller canes. You can plant them either side of each cane, so fit up to about eight plants in a 45cm square pot.
Mangetout peas in container Green Fingered Blog
Mangetout peas in a container

Growing peas and beans using tee pees


This year I'm using this same method for growing them in the ground on the allotment. I've made four large teepees. Two will be for peas and two for the taller broad bean varieties.

Without the restriction of the container size, I've made them wider, so that I can fit more plants around them. Each teepee is made from four long sticks, about 6 feet (1.8m) long.

There were a few unstable trees around our allotment site last year, and they were cut down, leaving a huge pile of branches available for use. I picked the straightest ones I could find and sawed them into lengths of 5-6 feet (1.8m) and about 3-4 feet (1.2m). 


Bean poles and pea sticks 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Are they bean poles, or pea sticks?!

They will lend a pleasingly rustic air to my pea and bean bed this year, entirely in keeping with the general theme of recycling and growing on a budget. Time will tell whether they help produce a larger, or easier to manage, crop.

Having sawn them to an approximate length, I found groups of four similar ones, and  pushed them into the ground to form pyramids. I've pushed them in at an angle, so that they meet at the top and then tied them together at the top with twine.


Bean poles and pea sticks 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
My pea and bean tee pees in position
Each pyramid is about 60cm square at the base, and I think I'l be able to fit 12 plants around each one. 

After tying them together at the top to keep them stable, I used more twine to wind round them and between all four sticks. This provides a horizontal support that the peas and beans can grow against as they get taller, and be tied into if necessary. The first of these was about 20cm from the ground, and the others were at 20-25cm intervals.

Bean poles and pea sticks 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Twine gives horizontal support for peas and beans

The shorter, 90cm, sticks are just piled up at the moment. These will be used to support the shorter varieties of french and broad beans by just pushing them into the ground and tying the plants in with the twine.

As to the the difference between a bean pole and a pea stick, I don't think it matters too much, but fellow blogger Mark has provided the answer in the comments below so do check it out. Whatever mine are, they are ready to go! How do you grow yours? 


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4 comments:

  1. My local countryside Rangers kindly provided me with a load of 9-foot Hazel poles which I use for growing Runner Beans (my family all love them!)I think bean poles are long and fairly straight, without branches, whereas pea sticks are shorter and preferably have lots of twiggy branches.

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    1. Thanks Mark - I knew there must be an answer! Certainly makes sense.

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  2. Thanks for the tips for growing beans. We generally plant both bush and pole varieties. We use our fence for growing the pole variety.

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    1. Thanks for your comment - great idea to grow them against a fence, a good way of making them part of the rest of the garden.

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