The broad beans currently overwintering in the veg garden grew too tall for the tunnel cloches about a month ago, a combination of very fertile soil and a mild winter helped to speed up growth. I kept the open-end tunnel cloches in place to protect the bean plants from persistent heavy rainfall, while providing protection from strong winds which would severely damage them.
I was a bit worried about the plants after removing the cloches, they still needed protection from battering winds and wood pigeons would strip them to nothing in a day, so I thought about what to do and came up with a simple yet effective windbreak made up of removable panels. Being a bit thrifty and honouring the allotment way of life, I used materials I already had to hand.
- Off cuts of clear plastic corrugated roof sheets (some of which were slightly damaged but fine for my project) left over from building the chicken enclosures. Chose clear materials to allow the precious winter light to reach the plants.
- 6ft bamboo canes (to allow plenty of cane left over to push into the soil to anchor the windbreak panels and excess at the top to attach garden netting to protect plants from pigeons).
- Garden wire (or jute string would be fine).
How to make a windbreak panel
Punch small holes down the short (end) sides of a corrugated sheet, try to space them evenly each side (around 5 holes each side should do it). I used a small paper puncher to create the holes.
Attach a bamboo cane to each side using garden wire threaded through the punched holes, twist the wire tightly to secure the cane. Leave around 6 inches of cane visible at the bottom of each panel to push into the soil. Use empty plastic drinks bottles as toppers for the excess canes to protect eyes, the bottles rattle in the wind to deter pigeons.
Carry on making panels until your broad bean plants are enclosed. The panels can easily be removed for weeding by grasping the top of the canes and pulling the panels free from the soil. Throw some netting over the top if pigeons are a real problem in your garden.
The windbreak has worked wonders through the many storms we’ve had, storm Gertrude ripped through the garden last night and for most of today and the plants still remain upright and undamaged. The variety I use to overwinter are ‘Aquadulce Claudia’, a hardy variety perfect for the colder months but the plants tend to grow quite tall making them susceptible to wind damage. There’s still plenty of growing space before my broad beans reach the top, but well before that happens I need to thin some out and support the growing plants by placing a cane at each corner of a row and tying in with string.