Beans, beans, the musical fruit… I’m sure you know the rest, especially if you’ve ever been in the company of an adolescent boy when beans are served. Or in the presence of a man who still finds that song hilarious, like my dad…ahem. I will say that the way my dad taught us the song (yes, taught), included the line “the tropical fruit.” Only in later elementary school were my lyrics corrected by a fellow classmate because how could one possibly sing this classic incorrectly? For the many variations of this song there are just as many kinds of beans out there to be eaten and grown in your own garden.
The fabulous thing about beans is that they’re pretty easy to grow, and you use seeds, no plant buying needed. The not-so-exciting thing about beans, especially if your garden is a bit on the small side, is that they can take up quite a bit of space. You can opt for bush beans, or pole beans, but either way, you need to make some space for them to spread out. What is a square-foot or small space gardener to do when faced with what to plant in the precious little garden space available? The answer: go up! Taking your garden in a vertical direction helps save space on the ground for plants that really can’t be trellised or staked, and one way to do this with beans is to use a bean teepee.
What is a bean teepee? It’s exactly what it sounds like. If you’ve ever seen a picture of a teepee whether real or re-created by Hollywood, then you are familiar with the triangular shape. A bean teepee uses long stakes set farther apart at the bottom that come together at the top. This gives pole beans a place to grow up, and it makes picking the beans once they’re ready such an easier job. Creating a bean teepee takes five minutes, so anyone can do it. Here’s what you’ll need:
4-6 stakes (wood or coated) per teepee (Amazon has some here.)
zip ties or twine for the top
pole bean seeds (we used Kentucky Blue)
(optional) additional twine for additional bean support
- Decide how many poles you’d like to use. For our square-foot garden, I used 4 (72-inch) poles for the first teepee (one in each square foot) and 5 poles in the second (just for a different shape). If you have a larger garden space, you can use more poles and simply set them further apart. We got our coated poles from the local hardware store. You can use wooden poles as well, but they will need to be replaced after 2 seasons or so.
- Place your poles in the ground in the shape you’ve chosen. Our 4-pole teepee will be a square at the bottom, while our 5-pole teepee has a pentagon shape. When you place the poles in the ground, angle them slightly toward the center of the shape.
- Gather the tops of the poles with one hand, and with the other, secure them with a zip tie. We found zip ties to be the easiest for a one-person assembly, but you can definitely use twine if you have an extra set of hands. Once the beans grow up the poles, you won’t be able to see the zip tie or twine.
- Plant your beans! I usually plant 2 or 3 bean seeds around the base of each pole. Simply place your bean seeds around the pole base and poke them into the ground with your finger. Cover them, water, and wait! You’ll notice the beans sprouting soon, and they’ll find their way up the pole on their own. If only children were as naturally obedient as bean plants…. 🙂
- Optional- This step isn’t absolutely necessary, and last year I didn’t do this at all, but to give your bean plants a little more to “grab onto,” I will tie some twine to the bottom of one of the stakes, then simply loop that same twine around the next stake, gradually going higher and higher. This creates horizontal lines between the stakes. This helps the bean plants have somewhere to go other than the stake, and can help spread the beans out.
Eventually, your bean plants will grow up and fill in, and you’ll have a lovely vertical element to your garden that is both eye-catching and useful; it’s a win-win! Since we’ve chosen two different shapes for our bean teepees this year, I’m hoping to determine which one will yield more beans. I’d love to know if you’re planting beans this summer, and if so, are you going vertical?? Happy Gardening!
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