Make a bean pole arch way.

There’s nothing I like better than a freshly picked French or runner bean, picked small before the stringiness develops, and the idea of them dripping from an archway has proved too good to resist. Never mind your standard bean pole row or conical frame, nor your traditional rose archway. How about a bean archway? Well it’s an experiment so we’ll see if it works.

The idea came out of the restrictions of my garden space. Being short of it in the kitchen garden I’ve had to be a bit creative about growing my beans and peas. I want to pack as much variety into the space as possible and at less than 5m x 3m there’s no room for standard rows of plants. In my planting I’m going for the Ornamental Kitchen Garden approach developed and popularised by Geoff Hamilton all those years ago and seemingly more prescient than ever.

Geoff’s theory was simple but backed up by years of his own research and testing. Pests and disease problems are kept to a minimum by mixing a wide variety of flowers, fruits and vegetables together in the same space. Pests find it harder to find their target and get established because biodiverse gardens hide plants and are generally filled with a greater number and variety of predators. Geoff never used pesticides because he found they upset the careful balance he created, killing both pest and predator, making gardening harder than it otherwise might have been. The bean pole arch way will add a vertical layer of diversity and the beans of course will fix nitrogen into the soil for the benefit of the garden as a whole.

The bean pole archway
To make the bean archway you’ll need four straight freshly cut bean poles (between 84 and 96 inches (2134-2438mm) long and 1 and 1.5 inches (25-38mm) thick at the butt), ten one foot stakes cut from branches or slats of old two by one, a pruning saw, a tape measure, secateurs or billhook, a mallet and some garden wire.

First measure the width of the archway.

measuring the archway
To bend the bean poles into shape you’ll need a flat surface (lawn, rough ground or unplanted vegetable plot) to make a bending frame (see picture). Bang one of the cut stakes into the ground and measure the width of the arch across from it.
measuring width

At this point bang a second stake in. Measure 6 ft up from both these stakes and bang two more stakes in, ensuring the distance between the stakes remains the same as the width of the arch.
laying poles

Lay your first two bean poles opposite each other on the outside of the staked area resting against the stakes. Then bang a third stake in on each side, half way up, on the outside of the pole and two more stakes in opposite the top and bottom stakes to keep the poles in place when you bend them. Laying the bean pole in position there should be plenty of top end to bend over and join together to make the arch. Bend each bean pole top together so they form a nice curved arch and can rest against each other for at least two – three feet. There’s lots of pressure when you bend so you have to have the wire ready to tie the two poles together, in several places.

Place the joined bean pole arch in position in to two prepared snug fit round holes (I used a piece of old metal pipe to make them). Make the holes deep enough so the arch feels secure left standing on its own. Go back and make a second bean pole arch and then ‘plant’ this about 1-2ft away from the first. Secure the two archways using four of the cut stakes from your frame. Push the stakes into the ground next to the arch so they rub up against each other. Either screw the stake and the pole together or just attach using several pieces of wire garden twine. I found it helpful to remove wobbles by wedging some small pieces of slate next to the poles.

securing the posts

Cross brace the wooden poles using smaller pieces of cut hazel and join the top of the frame with a further piece. This sort of structure wont last forever but as you’re only growing annuals up, it doesn’t really matter. Finally I added two pea sticks to the sides of the bean pole. Pea sticks should always be a fan shape, between 48 and 72 inches (1219-1829mm) high and three quarters of an inch in diameter (20mm) at the butt end.
archway finished

Yalding Future Secured

Yalding Organic Gardens has been saved by a local company called The Old Dairy. You can find out more about what they have planned at As a result the main website organising the campaign to save the gardens has changed their name to Here you can find out more about how Garden Organic handled the process of withdrawing from Yalding and take part in a discussion forum.

New operator found for Yalding Organic Gardens

The Congelow Trust have confirmed that a new operator for the Yalding site has now been appointed; though they are not yet able to say who. They expect to be able to issue a press release shortly. I will pass on any news I get. Thanks to the Save Yalding Organic Garden campaign for keeping me informed.

CAT and Compost Lover on Gardeners’ World

You can see CAT and Compost Lover on Gardeners World on for the next few days. If you’ve never been to CAT the video clip represents a great opportunity to see what its like. There’s also some footage about coppicing, soil testing and of course compost. Also go to and click on the news story button at the top to find out more about gardening at CAT.

The Organic Garden – first edition nearly sold out

Copies of The Organic Garden are now out of stock at the Collins warehouse and there might not be a reprint until April 2009 so if you’re thinking of getting a copy don’t leave it too long, especially if you want a hardback. Once its gone from the shops its gone for good. The next edition is likely to be a paperback. Buy it from I’m really pleased its sold out in less than a year. The book received many positive reviews in lots of diverse media and struck a chord with many individuals. If you want to find out more about the contents click on The Organic Garden button at the top of the page and then the search inside facility.

Coppice Products Course at the Centre for Alternative Technology

Pole lathe actionLast week I spend an incredible four days at the Centre for Alternative Technology learning how to split and turn wood using hand tools. OK its unashamedly rustic but its so exhilarating taking a log and within a few hours turning it into a thing, a useful thing. I’m going to put some pictures up over the next few weeks with an explanation of some of the basic techniques we learnt. But just for starters here’s a couple of snaps of some of the things we were doing. There’s a green woodworking course at CAT in September so if you want to find out more visit Three of the places have already been booked by people who did this course. As places are limited its good to get in quick.Pole lathe turning at CAT

Compost Lover on BBC Gardeners World

Compost Lover will be making a rare appearance on TV this friday. He pops up loving compost as part of the BBC Gardeners World Green Gardening special at the Centre for Alternative Technology. The programme, which was originally scheduled for next friday will now be aired at 8pm on BBC2 this friday the 11th April. Hope you can tune in. They’ll be lots of advice on gardening from Roger Mclennan and on coppicing from Grace Crabb, and lots of great information and shots of CAT. Carol Klein came to visit a couple of months back and this programme is the result. After the programme goes out there will be a special gardeners page at to link all the gardening parts of CAT together. It will allow you to find out all the ways CAT can help you garden better and greener.

News from Congelow Trust re. Yalding

More encouraging news from the Save Yalding Organic Gardens campaign this morning! They have released the following statement from the Congelow Trust.

“…Over the past month, the Congelow Trust has been working hard; to find a new operator for the site of Yalding Organic Gardens. The intention has been to secure a future for the gardens, that retains the unique character built-up over the past years under the HDRA; whilst at the same time expanding and developing certain resources and aspects that will enhance the gardens’ appeal to visitors and further promote and champion the organic principal.

The negotiations have gone extremely well; and the Trust is confident that they will be able to make a positive announcement on the gardens’ continuation and re-opening, in the near future…”

Still no news about Yalding Organic Gardens

A month after the announcement that Yalding Organic Gardens would not be open for business this year the campaign to save them is stepping up its on-line presence. Organisers John and Margaret Tate sent out an email this morning inviting more people to promote their e-mail list at The move comes amidst a growing sense of anger on Garden Organics own internet members forum and with some members handing back their membership cards in protest. Forum users are particularly concerned that they were not consulted about the decision or given the opportunity to raise an appeal, and have not received customary copies of the Council Quarterly Notes. Efforts continue to proceed with the Congelow Trust to find a future for the site so no news could be good news. All the same John and Margaret Tate are keen to gather more subscribers at The campaign to save the gardens needs to be up and running if talks fail.

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