making a climbing bean tipi basket at PumpjackPiddlewick

Uh oh, serious Oops. I planted climbing beans amongst my dwarf beans in the veg garden by accident. I have been watching their little tendrils snake upwards in search of something to climb, pondering what to do. A little research and I decided on building a climbing bean teepee.

As climbing beans grow fast, the solution had to be quick. Down and dirty as it were, with what was to hand. Inspiration came in the form of our hazelnut trees.

Hazelnut trees are almost like weeds here. They spring up everywhere, and as our restoration garden has not been taken to task for over 30 years a few of the saplings have run amok.

They poke their heads out of our hedge in multiple places. One stump is soaking up the spring water of our buried lavoir. One had died by vine asphyxiation and has been cut down. The only one to actually provide hazelnuts, thus far, shades one corner of our duck enclosure.

There are also two in the veg garden. One is growing out of our crumbled stone wall. (One guess on what is aiding the crumbling.) The other is smack dab in the wrong place, where I wish to grow a black currant bush. (Next to our red and Champagne currant bushes.)

These two were left to grow last year, with a little controlled pruning, to see if they would bear nuts, but nada, rien, nothing. However the one in the wall provides some nice necessary shade to the strawberry patch in the height of the summer heat, so it has been decided to keep this one.

Therefore, when it came to needing branches for the climbing bean teepee, the unwanted hazelnut bush / tree was decided upon to provide. It’s going to be cut down anyway in the autumn. A little earlier wouldn’t matter, and it was for a good cause.

We’ll add in the hazelnut in the wall, as it had lots of suckers that were shading the strawberries too much and had to be pruned. (Suckers are little branches that grow from the base of a tree and suck the energy, hence why pruning them is good.) Between these two trees, lots of varying sized branches were provided, especially thin bendy almost like string branches. Ping… idea!

I had just run out of string, using it up on making bean tendril paths on the bean trellis in the duck enclosure. These bendy branches could be used like string, in a wattling format, to hold the climbing bean teepee together. Are you with me? I’ll try to explain.

Using larger and long branches a teepee, or cone like triangle, is formed by sticking the ends into the ground in a sort of circle around the offending climbing plant, or plants. I recommend using about 6 foot / 2 meters long branches.

The more bean plants you are encompassing, the thicker the branches should be. The branches are lent inwards so they meet at the top, eg a teepee or triangular shape.

Now it needs strengthening so it doesn’t fall apart, or tip over, and can hold the weight of the beans as they climb and burst into life. This means winding something around the top, middle and near-ish to the bottom of the branches. You could use string, wire, or hazelnut prunings.

Having made wattling fences in various parts of our garden, the idea was to use the same principal for the climbing bean teepee. (Wattling is where you use upright stakes and weave thinner, bendier branches in between to make a wall.)

Green branches are the bendiest, and less likely to break. The thinner the better, too. Begin weaving the branch, from thicker end to thinner, around and through the branches at the top, where they come together.

It doesn’t have to be tidy, nor exact. It’s only about making it as solid as possible. Where there is a gap, make sure to weave through it. Where one branch weaves in front, weave another behind for strength.

Test it by pushing, carefully, on one of the branch poles. Does it feel fairly solid? Are the branch poles staying in place? If not, use more string/wire/prunings to weave through until it does.

Remember, this is just the first section. There are two more, so solidity is more in the top at this stage until you complete the other sections. Repeat the process a little above ½ way up. And again, about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom.

You can use slightly larger prunings as you travel down, if you are using branches, as the gaps get wider, so it is easier to wend the branches in and out.

Once done, you should have a very solid climbing bean teepee. It may look more rustic than pretty, but it will certainly do the job. And with you only spending time, rather than money. (And it is rather therapeutic winding throughout the branches.)

Oh, and if you don’t have hazelnut trees to hand, willow or any other bendy prunings will do.

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