Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to build a Bean teepee

We got the idea for a bean teepee a few years ago after reading Root, Shoots, Buckets and Boots, a magical book full of gardening projects to do with kids. Since we had had recently moved to Denver from Tucson Arizona, I was lamenting the lack of shade in the yard.  Perfect for growing vegetables, not perfect for growing boys. So instead of a tree house retreat for the boys we decided to seize what little grass we had remaining (I had already usurped most of the backyard lawn to make more room for my raised beds) and plant a bean teepee, or this case a gourd/bean teepee.

I had my doubts that these 8 poles and a handful of seeds would amount to much in the way of a shade structure, but I got out my pick ax and dug out a foot wide circle, about 12 inches deep, emptied a bag of compost and pushed in the seeds.  The north side is the entrance and you leave some space.  My friend Jill, who is somewhat of an expert on bean teepees and other creative things to do with kids, had suggested the gourds seeds for better coverage.

(That's Lancelot and Batman hiding out in a the bat cave in case you were wondering)

She wasn't kidding about the gourds. The beans got a little lost in those Little- Shop-of-Horrors-ish gourds, but we weren't really planting them for food.  You can see a few scarlet runner bean flowers struggling to get sun at the top.  There are some sunflower seeds thrown in for good measure. 
I would advise trimming back some.  In this last photo the kids can't even get through the tangled entrance and started joking that the gourds were trying to strangle them. 
We dried the gourds, painted them and made bird feeders,  The squirrels gnawed on them almost immediately but it was still a lot of fun.

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