We have access to woodland and our neighbours, who own it, have given us permission to cut a few pea and bean sticks for use next summer. What is the best type of wood to use – and when should we cut it? Andrea and Peter Richards
Any wood, no matter for what use, is best cut when the sap is least so “Now!”, in winter, is the answer to the last part of your question. As to what makes the best beanpoles, it obviously all depends on what’s available but if you live in a region where hazel flourishes there’s no doubt that it’s the most suitable. Failing that, any type that grows tall and reasonably slender (ash saplings, for instance) will suffice.
Stored over winter, hazel will last five or six years in the vegetable garden and its slightly rough bark makes it easier for the runner bean tendrils to take a grip (having said that, they are quite tenacious and will curl around almost anything).
Ideally, you should cut bean sticks with a sharp bill-hook and to a length of about 2.4m (8ft). They should be about 3-4cm (1½in) at the base and will naturally taper towards the top. The tops might curve a bit but that sometimes helps in creating a ‘wig-wam’ or archway over which your runner beans can climb.
Out of interest, should you be an FPN reader living in the UK, you might like to know that there’s an annual National Beanpole Week (yes, really!) that has been running for over a decade. To find out more, take a look at beanpoles.org.uk
As thin as a beanpole!