Warmer soil means it’s now time to plant beans in most areas. Pole beans are quick growing and the pods are produced over many weeks for regular picking, so they’re a really rewarding crop to grow. You can grow them in parallel rows the traditional way, but for an attractive alternative it’s hard to beat a bean teepee. So here’s how to plant one...
DIY Bean Teepee
Bean teepees offer a quick, convenient way of providing support for pole beans, or even scrambling varieties of pea. Unlike traditional ridge-supported beans, the rounded profile of a teepee means it’s less likely to catch the wind, making it a wiser choice for more exposed locations.
Extra-long bamboo canes are most commonly used for this type of support, but you can use any tall, straight supports to make your bean teepee. Lightweight aluminium or PVC pipes are super-durable, while hazel poles give a natural, sustainable option.
Preparing Your Soil for Beans
As always, proper soil preparation is essential to produce healthy plants and great harvests. Beans and peas naturally fix nitrogen at their roots, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a rich, fertile soil. A few weeks before planting, incorporate lots of well-rotted compost to give dark, crumbly soil that beans will love.
It’s also worth making sure that your beans will receive at least five hours of direct sunshine a day.
Build Your Bean Teepee
The diameter and height of your teepee is up to you. A wide, tall structure can provide enough room within the teepee to serve as a green hidey-hole for children – a place of escape to fuel their sense of adventure! Aim for a width of at least three feet (around a meter), and set the poles or canes so they’re about one foot (30cm) apart.
Our Garden Planner includes a teepee structure that you can add to your plan. It’s scalable, so you can extend it to real-world size, and then drop in your bean plants at the base of the canes. Refer to your plan’s Plant List to see recommended planting and harvesting times for your location, based on data from your nearest weather station, so you know when it’s safe to plant and when to expect your pods to be ready to pick.
In our video I’m using 8ft (2.4m) bamboo canes for my teepee. This means that even after pushing them firmly into the soil and tying the tops together, there’s still at least six feet (2m) of cane for the beans to grow up. Push the canes at least six inches (15cm) into the ground to anchor them into place – you don’t want your teepee to blow over at the first gust of wind.
A good way to get an even circle is to use a garbage can lid or similar object as a guide. Set the first canes in at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, then fill in between. Once the canes are in, tie a piece of string onto one of the canes, near the top. Then flex the next cane in towards it and tie it into place. Continue tying in the canes until they are all secured at the centre.
To help the beans get a grip of the teepee, run string horizontally across the canes. For this height of teepee use three lines – the first about a foot (30cm) off the ground, then the other two evenly spaced along the remaining length of canes.
Plant Your Bean Teepee
Beans are pretty quick out of the starting blocks, so you could sow two beans at the base of each cane, then remove the weakest of the two seedlings so the strongest can grow on. But I’m an impatient gardener and have some beans that I sowed into pots a few weeks ago, which are now ready to plant out. To plant your beans, dig a hole, pop the plant into position then carefully firm the soil around the rootball.
Encourage the young plants upwards by leaning them against the canes then loosely tying them in. Once they settle they should find their own way up without any further intervention. Water beans after planting and keep the soil moist to encourage steady growth, lots of flowers…and lots of beans!
The best way to ensure a plentiful supply of pods is to check your teepee every couple of days and pick any pods you find that are big enough. Keep on picking, and the beans will keep on coming!
Building a bean teepee is a simple, fun project, and it’s great for getting kids interested in gardening too. Let us know in the comments section below whether you’re planning on growing a bean teepee this season – and don’t forget to share your recommended bean varieties too!