Grow your own plant supports
Native hazel has been grown for centuries as a crop, with its stout stems harvested or ‘coppiced’ for all manner of uses. They’re perfect for sweet pea supports and, because the stems are rough, the plants can cling on and won’t need tying in. Hazel needs sun or part shade and it’s best to avoid waterlogged soil. To establish a plant or two, plant one-year-old whips November–March, 1.5m (5ft) apart. Planting closely produces the long, straight stems, whereas wider spacings result in more branched growth. In three years you should have sturdy enough plants to make the first cut. Prune stems back to 5cm (2in); make subsequent cuts as low as possible. Cut every four years for thin plant supports; every five to six years for sturdy beanpoles. No space to grow your own poles? Coppice Products (01952 432769; www.coppice-products.co.uk) has a useful online directory.