Cutting Hazel Bean Poles

Before spring has sprung there are bean poles to be cut. A few years ago I pollarded a hazel tree up in the orchard and waited. This meant I cut down a large tree too close to the boundary of my neighbour's fence. The wood was then stacked, dried and went on our fire, meaning nothing was wasted. That tree kept us warm for two years. With patience and forgetfulness I have left the old stump alone, a stump that is still too close to my neighbour's fence. I have watched as our neighbour looked at it growing again, fearful of of the new growth that rocketed up. There was a moment of panic on their face when the tree reached seven feet last summer and I did nothing about it. The odd comment passed over the fence, 'That's a large tree!' Cough-cough. The art of growing bean poles, is the art of patience and forgetting to cut the damn thing. We used to buy our bean poles from a charity in Manchester but when we phoned up last summer we were told the news that the man who did it had hung up his chainsaw and billhook. Cue the pollarded tree!

Bean poles, hazel tree, life on pig row

You want to cut a hazel when it's dormant to stimulate new growth in spring, this freshly cut tree will send up new shoots this spring. However, if you cut in summer you will just stunt the growth and also you'll be disturbing birds which is illegal; so please know when you should cut your trees and hedges, leave nesting birds alone. Cutting is now means that in five years we'll have new bean poles to replace the ones we're cutting now. Five years may seem a long time to wait but our last bean poles lasted this long, and there is nothing like a hazel bean pole for beans and sweetpeas to grow up. They cling to it better and when it comes to a carbon footprint our hazel bean poles have barely travelled twenty feet compared to those millions of bamboo canes that many of us buy every year that come from abroad, produced in countries thousands of miles away. The practice of hazel pole cutting was very common in the UK countryside up to the Second World War. Sadly, afterwards it fell out of fashion as agriculture was standardised, expanded and small market gardens and walled gardens bit the dust. Anyone who still buys hazel poles knows that they are more expensive than bamboo but have a longer life, are aesthetically more pleasing to the eye and beans grab on to the bark easier than the slick bamboo. If you have a hazel in your garden you may want to try it this year by cutting the tree down and watching as new shoots grow in the spring.

Bean poles, life on pig row

It doesn't take long with a saw and some secateurs to cut down the new poles, leaving a few inches at the bottom to send out further shoots in the spring. I soon build up a pile of new bean poles around six feet long which I strip the side shoots from with a knife.

Bean poles, life on pig row

It's then a simple case of placing them somewhere safe for use later in the year and all this cost me nothing but a few hours of work on a delightful sunny winter's day. A bit of exercise outdoors is welcome at this time of year.

bean poles, life on pig row

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  1. What a great post...usually I am very thoughtful about my carbon footprint but honestly I didn't really think about it with my bamboo canes which are readily available to buy at the allotment shop...I don't use a huge amount of them but may look into buying some hazel ones for my runner beans the year as they will need replacing....thanks for the tip....wish I had somewhere I could grow a hazel of my own to make my own poles!!

    1. Thanks for the comment, you can buy hazel poles and they are well worth the investment. They last years.