espalier apple tree, Herefordshire, Moreton Wood, National Beanpole Week, Planting Charlotte potatoes
Another weekend of glorious weather. This doesn’t feel like spring, it’s more like summer, 21C and tshirts in March isn’t typical for the time of year in these parts so we made the most of it and had a really productive couple of days in the garden and on the plot.
Wellyman put in the posts and wire supports for the new espalier apple tree. These are the sort of jobs that invariably take three times longer than anticipated and before you know it a whole morning has been swallowed up by something that seemed so straightforward. Usually Wellyman discovers the drill has no charge, the drill bit he needs is the one that broke last time and the various screws, bolts, nails required are the wrong size. Not this time though, maybe we’re just getting more adept at this DIY thing but it all went really smoothly, which was just as well because we had an appointment to collect some beanpoles.
I posted last autumn about National Beanpole Week and how there has been a resurgence in people managing coppice woodlands and selling the products. National Beanpole Week runs from 21st April to 29th April this year but because we wouldn’t be able to make these dates I had managed to find a woodland in Herefordshire where I could pick some up early. It wasn’t exactly local but it was such a beautiful day and Herefordshire is a lovely county that it wasn’t a chore to drive that little bit further. Moreton Wood is classified as ancient woodland with records going back 400 years but in the 1960s the deciduous, native trees were cleared for conifer plantations. The couple who now manage the woodland are slowly restoring it, removing the conifers and allowing broadleaved, deciduous trees to grow again. The practice of coppicing dates back to the early medieval period but declined from the 19th century. It seems to be making something of a comeback as people realise that coppicing is a great way to produce a fast and reliable source of timber without needing to replant and that it has beneficial effects on the woodland ecosystem. At a time when every company is jumping on the eco-bandwagon this really is a sustainable business. We came away with some great, sturdy posts about 8ft long which will be perfect for their job and they were only 50p each.
Back at home we carefully carried up to the allotment the chitted potatoes with their fat, stubby shoots and some small pea plants for planting out. The potatoes are Charlottes, a very versatile potato that is excellent as a salad spud or left to grow a bit bigger and can then be roasted, particularly tasty with a little bit of butter and chives chopped on top. Wellyman dug holes for each tuber and I put some compost and a handful of comfrey pellets in the planting hole before placing in the tubers, being careful not to damage the shoots, especially as you backfill.
Then came the pea planting. Is there another piece of gardening kit more annoying than plastic pea netting? It has a life of its own and trying to cut it, making sure you cut in a straight line and don’t go off at an angle leaving you with an oddshaped piece of netting that is no use to anyone is easier said than done. Getting exasperated doesn’t help but that’s also easier said than done. We got there in the end, with sections attached to canes so the newly planted peas have something to scramble up. I think only trying to use fleece to cover your plants on a windy day and discovering a kink in the hosepipe at the opposite end of the plot to where I am, can match pea netting for annoyance.
Just before we left I checked the rhubarb I’m forcing and we should be able to pick our first stems and the first produce of the plot this year, in the next week. So everything is taking shape. Exciting times ahead.
For more information on coppicing and finding a wood local to you visit Coppice Products.
Wow! You did get a lot done again. I like the idea of the beanpoles; we have bamboo growing on the property, not in the garden, and I get great satisfaction cutting our own poles for beans and tomatoes. When I was in the UK I bought a couple of crowns of rhubarb to try here, it is so nice to have some fruit very early on. Christina
Christina, I love early rhubarb, it’s flavour is much more subtle and it needs less sugar. It was a busy weekend but I’m occupied with other things over the next couple of weeks so wanted to get as much done as possible.
I planted my mange tout this afternoon and was pleased to find some pea netting at the back of the shed. I took about 20 minutes to get it into a usable length and then I managed to hook it on the buttons of my shirt. This left me grappling with it for at least another 20 minutes and I used some rather bad language. I am hoping the robin who has built a nest in my sock bag in the shed will forgive me. There are four small eggs sitting in it.
Wow, how amazing to have a robin’s nest in your shed. Hopefully the robin covered her ears. Do you think someone will invent something one day that is less infuriating than pea netting but still does the same job?
Flâneur Gardener said:
Over the weekend the Flâneur Husband was set loose on our hazel bushes with a saw, resulting in several very useful poles for peas and beans!
I’d never hear of pea netting before; my peas seem content enough to just climb some random branches and twigs stuck into the ground. And your entry doesn’t exactly make me want to try using netting!
It’s plastic netting, generally green in colour with small enough squares that mean its useful for peas and beans to use as support. You can attach it to bamboo canes and is particularly useful for tall peas, mangetout and sugar snaps. It is useful just awkward to use.
Flâneur Gardener said:
My peas seem to latch on to anything within reach, so I just provide them with a “scaffolding” of branches and string and they seem happy enough with that – and it gives me something to do with that pile of branches that’s ever-growing at the back of the garden!
Great title for a post and another enjoyable roundup from you. Can feel the sap rising as I read. Glad to hear some people are re-inventing coppicing for all sorts of garden needs.
p.s. those rhubarb stems looks sweet and tender
Thanks Laura, Coppicing is such an amazing craft, hopefully it will continue to become more popular. I can’t wait to have some rhubarb crumble.
David Marsden said:
Every year I walk up to the wood above the Priory and cut beanpoles – it’s one of my favourite tasks. The wood isn’t properly coppiced but I always seem to find enough hazel poles. I dream one day of having my own woodland with its own coppiced sweet-chestnut. Alas, I fear, it will remain a dream! Nice podt, WW.
I agree it would be amazing to have your own small coppice woodland. I’m fairly sure it’ll only be in my dreams too, along with the meadow and orchard with loads of cherry trees.
Your rhubarb looks so tempting, planted 2 new crowns today, so hopefully we will have plenty from next year onwards.So glad you won the battle of the pea netting, must have been very frustrating for you! You made me go and look at our one hazel bush in the woodland strip, yes, it is ready for coppicing and will make some very nice bean poles!
Hi Pauline, The rhubarb looks tasty doesn’t it? Can’t wait to make some crumble. There’ll be plenty more pea netting encounters before the summer is out I’m afraid, the key is to stay calm ….mmmmmm!
Amazing weather here too. My rhubarb is about ready to pick now (unforced). Lots of sowing to do over the coming weeks, while recently planted broad beans and red onions are beginning to show… it´s so exciting!
Sounds as if you had a most productive weekend WW. I’ve been entangled in pea netting a few times – most unobliging material. Hoping to pick up some more beanpoles at the Malvern Show in May – they are at the top of my list.
Bridget Foy said:
Lovely to be able to buy those beanpoles. I have to go rooting through the hedgerows to get mine. Don’t know of anyone doing that some of work in our area. Pity!
I had a similar sort of weekend, this weather is great for encouraging us outdoors. I had started to feel as though i was getting behind with everything, but a couple of days in the garden and at the plot and I feel on top of things again. I bet it doesn’t last though.
A busy weekend, with lots achieved! We have been embarking on something similar with coppiced wood for our pleached hornbeam support structure, hoping to finish this weekend and post about it soon. There is something so satisfying about working with such natural products, and playing a part in the lifecycle of a woodland…
Patricia Mason (@woodlousehouse) said:
I recognise that description of the ‘small DIY job’! Your rhubarb looks delicious … I can smell pie!
Sandra Jonas said:
This is my first visit to you blog, fabulous information! Can you please tell me about COMFREY PELLETS. My husband grows comfey and uses the leaves to make tea. I ‘steal’ it to water my clematis!
Hi Sandra, Comfrey pellets are just dried and compressed comfrey in pellet form. They are easy to use, you can either use the pellets dry scattering them on the soil, putting them in the planting hole or adding them to your compost heap. The other way to use them is putting them in a bucket of water and making a liquid fertiliser from them, just like you would with comfrey leaves. They seem to be much less smelly than using the leaves and any of the pulpy residue can be put around the base of plants. I’ve used both methods. It’s more expensive than just using your own comfrey plants but as I don’t have a ready supply of my own they are a good alternative. You can get them from several companies in the UK, not sure about in the US though. Hope this helps.