Monday, June 6, 2016

Grow runner beans under wire mesh - voila, hail protection included

The traditional way to grow runner beans involves planting beans in circles and putting a pole in the center so five or six plants climb the pole as they grow. Most serious gardeners in our neck of the woods use a sturdier "wigwam" or "teepee" construction, where several poles are tilted to meet at the top, which is then wound tight with string or thin rope.

The blogster wanted a lazy solution and built itself* a folding wire mesh structure out of 1 x 2s and 1.25 m wide standard wire mesh which had been left behind by the previous residents.

The structure consists of two equal pieces, held together on one short side (the "end") by two pieces of wire. In other words, you get a wire mesh triangle or tent you put over rows of plants. Depending on how far apart you set the bottoms, this gives you some six feet or more of room in the center for the beans and for your weeding pleasure. The blogster also put in a couple of individual wires across the lower part of the structure, one at about 10 inches above the ground, the second at about 20 inches, so that the plants in the center have some support before they reach the mesh.

The mesh size doesn't matter much, but chicken wire is not a good idea because it is a pain to remove the bean stems before you put the structure away for the winter.

The wire left behind by the previous residents had a two by four inch mesh, also called "badger fence", which turned out to be ideal when a severe hailstorm hit.

The storm dumped almost an inch of hail in fifteen minutes, wreaking utter havoc in the garden. The red currant bushes lost about half their berries, the tomato plants had their leaves stripped, the lettuce plants turned into patches of green mush, the potatoes didn't look much better.

The only plants left standing were the Borlotti beans that have been a favorite of the blogster for years. Only one or two plants sustained noteworthy damage, the rest got away without any damage or a single punctured or torn leaf.

The wire mesh tent saved them.

Too stunned to run and grab a camera, the blogster watched the destruction of the garden and marveled at the effect of the wire mesh. Hail was bouncing off the mesh in a crazy icy dance, slowing or deflecting subsequent balls of ice.

It took a full day for all the ice to melt.

For a small, precarious farm a century ago, these fifteen minutes could easily have spelled ruin.

* We are gender neutral, for fun, for privacy, and - yes - to mess with some people's heads.

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