Climbing Beans: Wigwams or tents?

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.

raised beds

Vegetable patch 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.)


Wigwams shown here from a couple of years ago behind the garage.

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.

tent support

Tent bean supports in this orientation tend to block out the sun

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:

Some beans

This year’s bean selection

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.

About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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11 Responses to Climbing Beans: Wigwams or tents?

  1. catterel says:

    Why not up and over the archway? You could make a row of archways (like a pergola) and it doesn’t matter if the path is in the shade.

  2. Chloris says:

    Your veg garden looks lovely.What are the blue flowers? I know what you mean about problems with runner bean supports. I don’ t know what the answer is.

    • Never leave the garden? It is all quite minor I suppose, compared to the crop we usually end up getting. The blue flowers are just forget-me-not which I can’t bring myself to remove until the finches have had a bit of a feed.

  3. I would go with tents but then that is an entirely uninformed opinion. Your vegetable garden looks very inviting.

  4. Julie says:

    You have a really lovely veg garden, I use rows and if I can use Hazel supports and some hairy string for extra rusticness. But thats for climbing French Beans, but for both you can pinch out the tops to stop excessive growth.

    • Thanks. My Dad has a frame which he just dangles twine from and it is remarkable how they climb up those. I agree that hazel supports look much nicer than canes though. Maybe over time I can switch them. Yes, pinching out works well, until you go on holiday ….

  5. Christina says:

    I grow dwarf beans usually but also yard-long, which I grown in a double row.. You grow a great selection.

    • Am jealous. I tried yard-long two years ago and ended up with a wigwam of leaves, not a single bean to be seen. The soil has been improved since then and now that you’ve mentioned them of course, I want to try again.

      • Christina says:

        I think they like heat, they grow well here because it is hot, although of course they have irrigation. They are worth it because 1 bean is almost a serving for one person!

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