Grow pole beans up a teepee trellis. Photo by Shannon under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
Plant pole beans, garden peas, sweet peas, miniature pumpkins, or nasturtiums at the base of the teepee poles. Photo by Rob Young under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
If you have yet to see one, a tepee trellis is a stand-alone structure made of long, thin poles such as bamboo. Teepees are especially handy for growing vining plants like pole beans, garden peas, nasturtiums, black-eyed Susan vines and fragrant sweet peas.
It’s simple to construct and perfect for any size garden even in urban and suburban yards. It can be modified for apartment gardening by placing a shorter version inside a half wine barrel.
Green beans are a summer staple around here and we never seem to get enough. One of our favorite ways to trellis pole beans is by creating a green bean teepee. I always preface the construction with “Teepees are so much fun for the kids!” When the truth is that teepees are so much fun for everyone. Practical points aside, tepee trellis’ are always a hit with the kids of all ages — as it lends itself quite naturally to a fort.
The key is to choose a pole bean variety as opposed to a bush type so that the vines climb all the way up the structure (and then some). A few varieties come in both types under the same name such as ‘Kentucky Wonder’ — so double check the seed packet.
Teepee Trellis Supplies
- 6 – 8 poles of bamboo, thin scrap lumber, or thick branches, 6′ — 8′ long
- Roll of twine, thin rope, jute, or wire
- Bean or other climbing (twining) plant seeds
Build Your Teepee Trellis
1. Lay all of the poles evenly on the ground.
2. Lash them together using the twine or jute about 1′ from the top of the poles.
3. Stand the poles up and spread them out individually and at even intervals — Indian tepee style. The structure should be standing on its own.
If you’re making a kid’s garden fort: Create a “door” between two of the poles and the trellis becomes an instant fort. Just widen the gap between two of the poles before you plant any seeds at the bottom of the poles. Add some straw on the ground inside the tee-pee for a comfortable sitting area.
4. For added stability, sink the bottom of the poles about 4″-6″ deep into the ground. The tepee only has to be lightly secure as you won’t be growing heavy vegetables up this structure.
5. Plant four to six of your choice of beans (or other climber) around the base of each pole.
6. To encourage seed sprouting, keep the planted area wet until little plants pop up. The beans will grow up the poles, forming a live cover around all the structure.
Other excellent plants to seed around the bottom of the poles are miniature pumpkins, scarlet runner beans (for the lovely blooms), and birdhouse gourds.
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