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Build a Bamboo Trellis for Vining Veggies

This easy-to-make structure helps get sprawling plants off the ground

Grow pole beans up a teepee trellis. Photo: Shannon under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

A teepee 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. They are simple to construct and perfect for any size garden even in urban and suburban yards. A teepee trellis 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!” But the truth is that teepees are fun for everyone. Practical points aside, teepee trellises are always a hit with kids of all ages—as they lend themselves quite naturally to being used as forts.

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.

sweet peas
Plant pole beans, garden peas, sweet peas, miniature pumpkins, or nasturtiums at the base of the teepee poles. Photo: Rob Young under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

Teepee trellis supplies

  • 6 to 8 poles of bamboo, thin scraps of lumber, or thick branches, 6 to 8 inches 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 inch from the top of the poles.

3. Stand the poles up, and spread them out individually and at even intervals. The structure should be standing on its own.

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 teepee for a comfortable sitting area.

4. For added stability, sink the bottom of the poles about 4 to 6 inches deep into the ground. The teepee 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 the seeds to sprout, 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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Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and Vegetables

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