Make a bean teepee: Picture this, you’re sitting in your house in spring after a very long winter, trying to plan this year’s garden. You’re trying to remember where you planted what last year; meanwhile, dinner is about to start, the dog is barking, the two-year-old is screaming at your 4-year-old, who is pinned to the ground by your 6-year-old. You start wondering how you’re going to get your garden in and get all the kids outside more to burn some energy, and then you put it all together… a bean teepee!! Still not sold? Let me walk you through the process and see if this project is suitable for your family and garden.
This fun project brings children closer to nature and teaches them important life lessons while nurturing their creativity. Let’s explore five compelling reasons why growing a bean teepee is an incredible experience for children.
- Nature’s Classroom: A bean teepee is like a secret hideaway in the garden, beckoning children to explore and discover. By engaging in this project, children become part of nature’s classroom. Witnessing the magical transformation from a tiny seed to a climbing bean plant instills a sense of wonder and fosters a deep appreciation for the natural world.
- Nurturing Responsibility: Growing a bean teepee offers children a taste of responsibility as they take charge of their plants’ well-being. They learn the importance of providing water, sunlight, and care to ensure their bean plants thrive. Through this hands-on experience, children develop a sense of accountability and ownership, witnessing the direct impact of their efforts and discovering the rewards of nurturing living things.
- Encouraging Creativity: Making a bean teepee is a blank canvas for children’s creativity. From designing the teepee structure to selecting fun bean varieties, children can let their imagination soar. They can adorn their teepee with colorful fabric, paint, or natural materials, transforming it into a unique and personalized sanctuary. This process encourages self-expression, problem-solving, and thinking outside the box while creating a beautiful, whimsical space.
- Cultivating Patience: Growing a bean teepee is a lesson in patience, teaching children that good things take time. As they eagerly wait for their bean plants to grow, children learn to be patient and appreciate the gradual progress unfolding before their eyes. This experience helps develop resilience, persistence, and an understanding that achieving goals often requires perseverance, dedication, and a belief in the process.
- Fostering Bonding and Collaboration: When you make a bean teepee, it is an excellent opportunity for family or friends to come together and bond over a shared project. Whether digging the garden bed, planting the seeds, or weaving the bean plants together, this collaborative effort strengthens relationships and creates lasting memories. Working as a team, children develop critical social skills such as communication, cooperation, and compromise. They learn to value teamwork and understand the power of collective effort.
Bush vs. Pole Beans – Picking the right variety when you make a Bean Teepee
You Must use Pole Beans
First thing first, what bean variety do you use? When it comes to growing beans, gardeners have two main types to choose from: bush beans and pole beans. These varieties have unique characteristics and benefits, making them suitable for different gardening preferences and conditions. Let’s explore the key differences between these two types of beans and discover why a bean teepee could be an excellent support system for pole beans.
Bush beans grow in a bush-like manner, hence the name, and attain a compact height of about two feet. They are self-supporting and don’t require additional structures such as trellises or stakes. Bush beans are ideal for gardeners with limited space or anyone who prefers a low-maintenance approach. They can easily be grown in containers, making them an excellent choice for urban or patio gardens. Bush beans are also known for maturing faster than pole beans, usually producing a harvest within 50 to 55 days.
On the other hand, pole beans are climbing vines that require vertical support. They can grow up to 15 feet tall, making them suitable for individuals with ample space or those who want to maximize vertical gardening. One popular support system for pole beans is the bean teepee. Making a bean teepee consists of several bamboo poles or long branches tied together at the top, creating a cone-shaped structure. The teepee leg’s then spread out and planted in the ground. As the pole beans grow, they naturally climb up the teepee, using it as a robust support system. The bean teepee provides functional coverage and aesthetic aspects to the garden.
The advantages of growing pole beans are numerous. Firstly, pole beans usually yield more than bush beans. They continuously produce pods for a more extended period, which can prolong the harvest season. Pole beans are also famous for their disease resistance, making them a reliable option for gardeners who want to minimize plant diseases’ risk. However, it is essential to note that pole beans require more maintenance and attention than bush beans. Regular pruning and vine training may be necessary to ensure they grow accordingly.
Steps to Make a Bean Teepee Structure
To make a bean teepee, you’ll need the following materials:
Bamboo poles, dole rods, even long branches (~1inch in diameter, or 2×2 boards: 6-8ft long; will need ~10-12
Twine or garden wire
Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started:
Choose a suitable location to make a bean teepee: Find a spot in your garden or yard with ample sunlight, as beans thrive in sunny areas. Ensure the soil is well-drained and fertile to support healthy plant growth.
Measure and mark the area: Decide on the size of your teepee and mark the boundaries using a tape measure. A teepee with a diameter of about 6 to 8 feet works well, providing ample space for climbing beans.
Set up the poles: Gather your bamboo poles, dole rods, 2×2 boards, or even long branches; they should be ~ 1inch in diameter and 6-8ft tall (you can decide the height, but the taller the teepee is, it will be more exposed to the wind and the higher you need to reach to harvest.)
Insert them into the ground at equal intervals along the marked circle. Ideally, space the poles about 8 to 12 inches apart to allow the plants to intertwine and create a sturdy structure. Ensure the poles are firmly planted in the ground to withstand wind and the weight of the growing plants.
Secure the poles: Once the poles are in place, tie them together at the top using twine or garden wire. This will create the classic cone shape of the teepee and provide stability. Make sure to leave a small opening for easy access to the interior.
Add additional Supports: Use additional twine or garden wire around the teepee, starting at the top and winding downward to ground level, similar to putting string lights on a Christmas tree. Again spacing matters as the closer together they are, the beans runners will need less training. Recommend 6-8 inches apart at minimum. Don’t forget to leave a spot for your doorway when you make a bean teepee, or it becomes a bean cone and is much less fun.
How To Plant and Care for Pole Beans When You Make a Bean Teepee
Planting pole beans requires preparation and attention to ensure healthy growth and a bountiful harvest. Kentucky Wonder, Blue Lake, or French filet beans are just a few examples of pole beans that will thrive on your teepee.
Here’s a guide to help you successfully plant pole beans and make a bean teepee.
- Choose the right location: Pole beans thrive in full sun, so select a spot in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Ensure the soil is well-draining and enriched with organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure.
- Set up supports: Since pole beans are climbers, they require sturdy supports to grow on. Before planting, install your teepee to provide a structure for the vines to climb. Ensure the supports are firmly anchored to the ground to withstand the weight of the plants.
- Sow the seeds: Plant pole bean seeds about 1 inch deep in the soil, spacing them 6 inches apart. Since we are planting around a teepee, place the seeds around the supports. Sowing multiple seeds near each support is best to increase the chances of successful climbing.
- Water and mulch: After planting, immediately water the soil to stimulate the seeds to germinate and ensure adequate soil contact with the seed. Beans like cool, moist soil, so be sure to water throughout the growing season, aiming for about 1-1.5 inches of water per week. Consider adding a layer of mulch around the plants to help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and cooler soil temperature.
- Training the vines: As the pole beans start to grow, guide the tendrils toward the supports. Gently wrap the vines around the trellis or stakes to encourage upward growth. It’s essential to regularly check the plants and redirect any wayward vines to prevent them from tangling or falling.
- Pinching the tops: Once the pole bean vines reach the top of the supports, pinch off the tips. This practice redirects the plant’s energy from upward growth to produce more flowers and pods. Pinching also helps control the size and shape of the plant, making harvesting easier.
Harvesting Your Beans
The final payoff when you make a bean teepee is the tasty beans. To ensure a bountiful harvest, here’s a guide on how to harvest pole beans:
Encourage your children to help with the picking of the beans. Have them start with the low-hanging beans while you go for the beans higher on the teepee. Involving your children will increase their interest in gardening and willingness to eat the veggies they are picking. Our kids eat most of their yearly intake of vegetables right out of the garden!
As the bean pods begin to mature, check the plants regularly so you can catch the early harvests. Pole beans are typically ready for harvesting around 55 to 65 days after planting. Look for plump, firm pods that are vibrant in color. Typically the pods are about 6-8 inches long and about the diameter of a number 2 pencil. The best time to harvest pole beans is in the morning when their sugar content is at its peak.
Gently hold the vine and examine each pod individually. Snap or cut the pods off the plant using garden shears or your fingers, careful not to damage the plant or surrounding vines. Freshly harvested pole beans should easily snap when broken. Avoid forcefully yanking or pulling the pods, which can harm the plant.
Remember that regular harvesting is key to encouraging continuous production. Pick the mature beans every two to three days to prevent the pods from becoming tough and fibrous. If you let the pods mature and develop fully, the plant will divert its energy into producing seeds, and the beans will lose their tenderness.
Additional Vegetables to Add When Making Your Bean Teepee
Some fantastic options for planting on your bean teepee, adding both visual appeal and delicious harvests to your garden.
- Scarlet Runner Beans: When picking the plants to make a bean teepee, the obvious choice is, of course, beans! Scarlet runner beans are a great option for their vibrant red flowers and delicious edible pods. These fast-growing climbers will eagerly scramble up the teepee structure, creating a stunning vertical display. The beans add a pop of color and attract pollinators, making your garden come alive with butterflies and other insects, providing additional learning opportunities for your children.
- Sugar Snap Peas: Another excellent alternative vegetable for your teepee is sugar snap peas. These sweet and crunchy treats are a favorite among gardeners and can be easily trained to climb the teepee’s structure. Their delicate tendrils will gracefully wrap around the poles as they grow, creating an enchanting green curtain. Harvesting these delectable peas straight from your teepee will keep your children coming back for more.
- Cucumbers: Imagine a bean teepee adorned with luscious cucumbers hanging like green jewels. By planting cucumber varieties that climb or trail, such as the Armenian cucumber or the English Telegraph cucumber, you can transform your teepee into a shady oasis. As the vines weave their way up the poles, they will provide cooling shade beneath, creating a perfect retreat on hot summer days.
- Pumpkins and squash: Another vining vegetable you can consider adding when you make a bean teepee. With their sprawling vines and vibrant fruits, pumpkins and squash bring a touch of autumnal magic to the bean teepee. Plant the seeds at the structure’s base, and watch as the vines sprawl upwards, creating a lush canopy of leaves. If planting pumpkins, look for miniature varieties. These vegetables are not ideal for most teepees due to the added weight, so if you are attempting these veggies, make sure your supports are strong enough – 1in or greater in diameter.
- Decorative gourds: with their unique shapes and patterns, bring an element of charm and intrigue to the garden. They can be grown by placing the seeds at the base of the teepee, allowing the vines to climb and intertwine around the poles as they mature. As the season progresses, these gourds will develop into various colors and sizes, transforming the teepee into a fascinating work of art. Again, similar to pumpkins and squash, these vegetables will put more weight on your teepee, so make sure your supports are strong enough – 1in or greater in diameter.
As you can see, a bean teepee is not limited to growing beans alone. By choosing alternative vegetables that love to climb, you can mix and match, allowing you and your children some choices to add variation to your teepee. This variation allows you to create a visually striking and highly productive garden structure.
Why Involve Your Children When You Make a Bean Teepee
Gardening with children is a rewarding activity that offers numerous benefits for both the child and the family as a whole. It provides a hands-on learning experience that engages children in the natural world, encourages healthy eating habits, promotes physical activity, and fosters important life skills.
Repeated research studies have very similar results: the positive impact of gardening on children’s cognitive, emotional, and social development.
According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Horticulture, children who participated in gardening activities showed increased environmental knowledge, improved attitudes toward nature, and enhanced self-esteem (Waliczek et al., 2001). Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that children who gardened were more likely to consume fruits and vegetables compared to those who did not (Robinson-O’Brien et al., 2009).
When you decide to make your bean teepee, it is a great way to creatively grow your bean crop while providing a fun environment for your children to be involved in. From exploring the wonders of nature to fostering responsibility, creativity, patience, and collaboration, this project cultivates essential skills and values in children. So, grab some bean seeds, gather the little ones, and embark on an enchanting journey of growth, discovery, and connection through a bean teepee. The memories and lessons learned will last a lifetime while providing a bountiful harvest of vegetables.
- Waliczek, T. M., Bradley, J. C., & Zajicek, J. M. (2001). Relationship between environmental knowledge and environmental attitude of high school students. Journal of Environmental Horticulture, 19(2), 109-114.
- Robinson-O’Brien, R., Story, M., & Heim, S. (2009). Impact of garden-based youth nutrition intervention programs: A review. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 41(2), 97-107.