I have a feeling that bean poles will be popular this season. Now that Spring is the air, and while the weather is good I can see people are getting out in their gardens. With all the bad news in the media perhaps the vegetable patch will get more attention this year, and maybe a lot more people will start to enjoy growing their own.
If so, I aim to help and with National Beanpole Week at the end of April (25th to the 3rd May) I’ve decided to get into the spirit by increasing the number of beanpoles that I bundle up this year.
I bundle the rods in 11′s and cut them to 6ft 6in or 7 ft using the straightest rods I can find, though it matters little if they are a bit kinky.
I’ve already sold a couple of bundles this season and here are some already in place.
I am using birch for the poles, mainly because I have more birch and its straighter than the hazel at the moment. Hazel is more generally used. But I imagine that poles of sweet chestnut, ash and willow would also have been popular as they all coppice well and much would have depended upon the type of coppice woods in the area.
The concern always raised with birch is that it has a reputation for rotting swiftly. Herbert Edlin writes about Birch in his book ‘Woodland Crafts in Britain’ and says of birch poles ‘frequently used for rustic work in gardens, with the bark left on to retain their attractive appearance; they endure reasonably well if seasoned before use and barked and creosoted where the butt is inserted into the ground’.
To make the poles I first strip all the branches from the stems and cut off the tops using a bill-hook. When doing this I am looking for good besom or pea-stick material in the tops which are then piled to be sorted through once the poles are finished.
Then I sort through the pile of poles looking for the 7ft straight lengths of about 1 inch at the butt end, which I cut to length using a pole as a measure. All the 7ft cut poles are then piled to be sorted. Before tying into bundles of 11 I use the hook to thread all the knots and spikes by running it along the pole.
The offcuts and poles too kinky for beans are not discarded as they may still be of use for tomato or flower stakes. Traditionally these are about 4dt 6in in length and about 1inch at the but. Those too stout may become rustic poles instead. But if all else fails the rest will be turned into charcoal or kindling so everything will be used.
I’ve finished cutting the birch and almost finished working up the bean poles now. Next will be pea-sticks, as I have my first show to go to this weekend and I want to take a few bundles of poles, stakes and pea-sticks to promote national beanpole week.