sweet pea climbing frames and systems
Sweet peas are the best climbers for the cutting or vegetable patch. If you have grown your own sweet peas from seed or purchased ready-to-go seedlings from us, this guide will show you how to create a teepee or tunnel for them to clamber over, bringing another dimension into the garden.
How to Create a Silver Birch or Hazel Teepee
A teepee made from silver birch, or hazel is very easy to make and looks lovely. As strong as bamboo and far more pliable (when freshly harvested), the branches of these trees are especially good because of all their additional twiggy bits, which can be used to further help bind and support the plants as they grow.
Push a circle of eight branches, each 2.5m high, into the ground, sinking them about 20cm deep so they're securely anchored. The circle should be about one metre across. Gather the uprights together with a piece of Flexi-tie or twine (see our website) at the top.
Then in two or three horizontal layers, arranged evenly up from the ground level, gather all the side twigs of a branch, into a bundle in your hands (one level at a time) and twist and bind them in to a band, moving roudn from one upright to the next. Bind their twisty ends securely (you can finish tying them off with Flexi-tie or string).
If you use canes, or your branches aren't twiggy enough to make a real witch's broom, add smaller sticks or circles of string at the base, to give the plants enough handholds to attach themselves to and climb.
How to Create a Hazel Stick Tunnel
I love growing sweet peas up over a hazel stick tunnel. This is homemade, using hazel poles pushed into the ground, down both sides of the path, with thinner sticks (willow is perfect), bent in a hoop between the two and tied with a bit of wire and twine.
Whichever wood you're using, you'll need some lengths about 4-5cm thick and 2m high, as straight and unbranched as possible. These will be the uprights. For every pair of uprights, you want one thinner stick, approximately 2cm thick.
This will make the hoop over the top and so needs to be 1½ times the width of your path.
Position the uprights in groups of four with each upright about 20-30cm from the next. Allow 90-120cm between the groups. Using a rubber hammer, sink the sticks at least 20cm into the ground so they stand straight and sturdy. The climbers benefit from a strong, robust frame.
Once they're all in the ground, secure all of the upright sticks together with two sticks running horizontal (3-5cm thick), nailed in or tied; one at the top of the vertical posts and another half way up. Mirror the groups of four on the other side of the path.
Hoop the thinner sticks over to form the roof and tie these on to the uprights. This needs two people. We use Flexi-tie (see our website).
After you have completed each of the groups, tie in horizontal sticks 4cm thick all the way down the tunnel along the apex of the hoops. This unites the structure and strenghtens it against the wind.