We grow a lot of beans in the vegetable patch each year. Being a vegetarian family, they are one of the staples of summer for us. We mostly eat the beans freshly picked, it is only as the season ends that I let them dry. Beans are great because once you get the plants past the optimum slug damage height (I’d say 2-3ft), there’s little that goes wrong. We have a narrow rectangular patch behind the garage that is used for vegetables, but it gets shady by mid-day and so most of the crops are grown in eight raised beds.
The question is, do I go with wigwams or with tents as the supporting structure for the climbing beans this year? It’s hard to decide, because in this raised-bed arrangement they both have their downsides. (In either case I use bamboo canes.)
Last year I went with wigwams, but was frustrated by the beans being most numerous where the wigwams narrow. Also, if you look or go away for a day or two, so that the bean stems grow beyond the top of the canes, you get a self-shading canopy, which is top heavy and becomes a wind trap. When you turn around the whole structure might be at a precarious angle or even on its side! (I managed to reconstruct the wigwam, but it was a continuous weakness). I probably don’t make the bases wide enough, but I am restricted by the width of the beds (~1/2 a railway sleeper).
However, when I have previously tried the alternative tent or double row structure, I have found that the resulting wall of greenery is excessively shading for the other crops in the raised beds. Again, there is a tendency to catch the wind when the beans fully cloth the structure, which can lead to tilting, and ultimately, disaster.
I’d grow more dwarf beans, but being so close to Frog End you can guess that we have big slug and snail problems. Not much seems to stop them. There are too many ditches around, which are breeding grounds for those huge Orion ater blighters. They are simply too big and are very upwardly mobile! Last year we decided to get rid of the grass paths between the beds and have now put down pea gravel. It looks decidedly classy and I am hoping that it will help with the slug problem.
Anyhow, by last weekend most of the beans were sown:
I am thinking that with the new rotated orientation of the middle beds, I should be able to put short tented rows in the middle beds, without shading too much and wigwams in the outer four beds. Fingers-crossed.