Want to get your kids outside and (dream on!) eating more veggies?
Here’s a kids gardening project (with the help of grown ups) that combines the fun of building and playing in ‘forts’ with the ‘magic’ of growing plants from seed. Remember ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’? These beans may not grow all the way to the giant’s castle in the sky, but they’ll make a cozy kid hideaway and provide yummy green beans for snacks! Here’s how to do it:
What you need:
- Bamboo poles – Use 6′ or 8′ bamboo poles (Home Depot or other home improvement centers and nurseries carry them). I prefer 8′ as they give kids more space. For a 5′ diameter teepee, 8 – 10 poles are needed (more poles means bean plants will be closer together providing denser foliage). For a wider teepee, get a few more poles.
- Twine – To tie poles together at the top.
- Pole bean seeds – Bean plants come in two forms: ‘pole beans’ and ‘bush beans’. Pole beans grow tall, 6′ or more, while bush beans are bushy and get only a couple feet high. Be sure to get ‘pole beans’ so they grow all they way to the top of the teepee. Choose a variety you think your children may eat! Check out an online seed catalog like Burpee, to learn more about the choices.
- Compost – For amending the soil. See post on Five Steps to Great Garden Soil.
- Organic vegetable fertilizer
How to do it:
- In a spot that receives at least 6 hours of sun a day, mark a circle on the ground the size you want for your bean teepee.
- Dig holes 12″ wide and 12″ deep spaced evenly around the edge of the circle for the number of bamboo poles you have. Do not dig any holes where you want the entrance to the teepee. Mix compost and organic vegetable fertilizer into excavated soil.
- Insert bamboo pole into each hole, leaning pole toward center of circle then backfill hole with amended soil to hold pole in place. Repeat for all poles.
- Tie poles together at the top with twine about a foot from the top of the poles.
- Plant 3-4 bean seeds, according to seed packet instructions, at the base of each pole. See my video on How to Plant Seeds in the Ground for more info. To protect tiny seedlings from birds, you can cover the planting area with an upside down strawberry basket until they are 3″-4″ tall.
- Water seeds and keep soil consistently moist until seeds germinate.
- As the vines begin to grow, they should wrap themselves around the pole. If they stray, encourage by gently wrapping vine around pole.
Optional final touches can include spreading mulch on the teepee floor so kids aren’t playing directly on the dirt, or put kid size chairs inside.
Use the growth stages of the vine and resulting beans as a ‘circle of life’ lesson: the planted seed grows into the vine, it produces flowers, bees pollinate the flowers which results in the fruit (the bean), which contains the seed for the next generation!
Kids will loving harvesting the beans! And maybe even eating them before they get into the house!
Note that this project can also be done using snap peas, a favorite kid veggie!