We made our first bean pole teepee 8 years ago when Maia was a toddler and I was obsessed with Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots. Maia is no longer little, but I still love Sharon Lovejoy’s beautiful book on gardening with kids. The ideas and book are both magical and functional. Plus there’s a lot of good, basic information on gardening that’s both instructional and motivational.
But I’m getting off on a tangent…
I bring up Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots, because that’s where I first got the idea for a bean pole teepee.
I took inspiration from her Moon Garden and her Garden of Giants but went super simple. Our first couple teepees were covered with beans and Heavenly Blue morning glories. And we had one with yard long beans. But for the most part, we’ve made this about the beans (to cover the teepee fort and as a way to grow and trellis them). It’s amazing how quickly the bean plants cover the teepee structure once they get going in the warm weather. But we also enjoy the teepee before the beans provide a living fort.
Sometimes we cover it with fabric temporarily. The kids have had fun weaving ribbons and yarn in and out of the teepee like a fort loom. And they’ve added flowers from around the garden for temporary decoration.
Anyway, the kids have requested a bean pole teepee again this year, so as I started planning it, I thought I’d put together a post on how to make one. It’s quite easy. And so rewarding!
How to Make a Bean Pole Teepee
- Bamboo poles* or wood poles, 6-10 feet tall (8-10′ is ideal)
- Twine or string
- Soil amendments, if necessary
- Pole bean seeds, such as Kentucky Wonder
- Annual climbing flower seeds, such as Heavenly Blue morning glories (optional)
*Bamboo and wood poles can be purchased at garden supply and hardware stores. If you’re lucky, though, you can find someone with an overly vigorous grove of bamboo (aren’t they all?) who would be more than happy to have you cut and take some longer poles.
First, determine teepee size and location. Loosely assemble the bamboo poles in the teepee shape (without tying them yet), both to see if you like how it looks in the location you’ve picked (as sunny as possible!), to decide on a doorway, and to figure out the size of the footprint. If you’re okay with the size and location, mark the teepee footprint with string, a garden hose, or with a line of flour. Move the teepee poles out of the way.
Remove the sod from the horseshoe-shaped teepee footprint and amend the soil for planting. I like to dig in some compost or composted cow manure (to add nutrients) and some Nature’s Helper (to help loosen my heavy, clay soil.
Next, assemble your teepee poles, pushing the bottom ends into the amended soil, and tying the top ends together. If you have boy scout experience, you’ll probably make some simple yet indestructible knot. If you’re like me, you’ll just wind it around a bunch of times, tie it as many ways as you can think, and then wonder why it looks more like a birds’ nest than a sailor knot.
Now, add twine to the bamboo pole framework. Tie off the end of your twine at the top of one of the poles and, working your way around and down the teepee, create a trellis system for the pole beans to grow up. You’ll pull the twine tautly from one pole to the next, wrap it around that pole, then pull it tightly over to the next pole, etc. When you reach the doorway, reverse direction back around the teepee, until the entire teepee, except for the door, is covered with a network of twine. The final stretch of twine should be close enough to the ground that the baby bean seedlings will be able to reach their climbing support without too much problem.
Finally, plant your bean seeds! Follow the directions on your seed packet, but here are general directions for planting beans. After danger of frost is past (and preferably when it’s warm with night temps staying above 55 degrees fahrenheit), plant seeds 1 inch deep and about 3-4 inches apart. (Add a legume inoculant, if desired. We do if we have it. They seem to grow fine when we don’t.) Cover with soil, pat down firmly, and water well.
You can also add other seeds or seedlings at this time, either other annual vines, such as morning glories, that will climb up the teepee, or other low-growing annuals such as marigolds or nasturtiums, that will form a visual base to the teepee. The beans should sprout after about a week.
Keep the bean seedlings well watered and help guide them to the base of the teepee if they seem to need it. Progress may seem slow at first, but once they get going you will be surprised at how quickly the beans cover your teepee structure. Take regular photos of the progress, just for fun!
Use the bean pole teepee as a play area, fort, or reading nook at any stage of bean growth.
Harvest the beans! Once your bean plants start producing beans (after about 60 days), pick them! Keep the beans picked so that the plants continue to produce them.
When your beans are finished for the season and start to turn ugly and tan, you can either pull down the entire structure (as I usually do) or clip the twine and bean plants off the teepee framework and toss them in the compost.
So! Now that you know how to make a bean pole teepee, are you going to do it? It’s really quite easy and very rewarding! We’ve been growing these almost every year and the kids keep asking for a repeat, so I highly recommend it.
Plus it’s just a good way to grow beans!
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