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How to Build a Cane Wigwam

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HF contributor Mark Abbott-Compton creates a sturdy wigwam to support peas, beans and squash.

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One of the best ways to increase the amount of growing space we have in the garden is to use wigwams or frames to create a vertical growing space. These wigwams can be used for growing vegetables such as peas, beans and squash.

Because this method of growing is intensive, results are improved by preparing the ground underneath your wigwam or growing frame. Use good quantities of well-rotted compost or farmyard manure to provide nutrients to your wigwam crop – especially beans and squash.


If you’re growing in the open ground, your wigwam should be 0.9–1.5m (3–5ft) in diameter, and canes should be spaced approximately 15–30cm (6–12in) apart around the diameter of the circle.

The canes need to be 2.4–3m (8–10ft) long and of a thick girth – don’t be tempted to use very thin, cheap canes, as the weight of the growing plants is quite substantial and it is vital to construct a solid and robust structure.

If you are using canes that are more than a couple of years old, make sure that they haven’t become brittle – you don’t want your canes to fail just before your whole crop reaches maturity. This is when your plants will be at their heaviest and totally reliant upon the structure holding them up.

An alternative to bamboo canes are hazel sticks, which can look very attractive, but tend to be more expensive unless you have facility to cut your own.

You will need 6–10 of these canes. Additionally, you will need some strong twine to tie onto half of your canes about 30cm (1ft) from the top, and I would recommend you have this cut ready in lengths of about 60–90cm (2–3ft) long.


The next step is to mark a circle on the ground, inside of which we are going to erect the wigwam.

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The easiest way to do this is to take a length of string that measures half the diameter of the circle in which you want to plant, tie one end to a cane pushed into the ground in the middle of where you want your wigwam, then take the other end of the string and, keeping the string taut, scribe the circle on the ground.


With a 90cm (3ft) circle, I would put 2 canes opposite each other and then 2 canes on either side of them, leaving a roughly equal distance between them. With a 1.2m (4ft) circle, it is easier because you can use quarter points and then split those again in the middle of the quarter, which would give you eighths.

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You need to push the canes about 30cm (12in) into the ground so they are vertical. Be careful when doing this because if the canes are not vertical they can easily snap unexpectedly. There is no benefit to be gained by having your canes more than 30cm (12in) apart.


We now need the pieces of twine that we cut into 60–90cm (2–3ft) lengths in STEP 1. Tie these pieces of twine about 15cm (6in) from the top of each cane using a clove hitch knot. A clove hitch knot (see the slide show below) is the most secure knot to use, and over time it will tighten against itself and make the structure more solid.

  • Step 1. Take a piece of twine and place it across your leg.


Now it’s time to create the structure. Take 2 opposite canes, bend them so that the tops are together, then tie them to form an ‘X’. The best way to do this is by creating a figure of eight, with the canes inside the ‘8’.

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Repeat this process by taking another cane at right angles to the first, bend this in and secure it by tying it; now do the same with the cane opposite this one.

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Repeat with any remaining canes. Always tie in with the opposite cane, as this creates tension within the wigwam, which helps with rigidity and stability.

When you have completed this, you will have a perfect structure for vertical growing.

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An alternative to make best use of space is to construct a tunnel along the edges of two parallel beds and grow your beans up these, which means you are growing over the paths and increasing your growing area. In this case you will need to brace along each row of canes by simply tying a horizontal cane across all of the verticals. Then you would cross the path with shorter canes and tie these in to create a tunnel.

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Classic plants you can grow using a wigwam structure are runner beans, pole beans, borlotti beans and butter beans, but a wigwam can also be used very successfully to grow smaller varieties of squash such as ‘Sweet Dumpling’, and there is a variety of courgette called ‘Zucchetta Tromba D’Albenga’, which grows wonderfully well using this method.


One of the ways to increase your crop is by companion planting, using either sweet peas or climbing nasturtiums, as these will attract beneficial pollinating insects and ensure a good crop.







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