Getting kids outside is an uphill struggle in this technologically wired world. In their desire to build and create in Minecraft they are losing ‘Life-craft’ knowledge. Food doesn’t just appear on their plates at meal times, by way of a packet that was transformed into something edible in the kitchen. Food comes from the outside, in the garden and if we can get our kids to put down their devices and controllers long enough they’ll step out into a world far more interesting than what a flat screen can provide. 

But we need to do more than just send them outside to ‘go and find something to do.’ We need to engage them and pique their interest. We need to get them involved in how food springs to life and makes it to the table. A great way to get kids into the garden is to show them how to build a bean tee-pee. Another great activity is how to grow a giant pumpkin.

Now is a great time to start off with growing beans as they really don’t like cold and damp soil, and will grow faster in warmer weather. So the first step in creating a bean tee-pee is to gather some supplies. You need to make sure the beans you choose are climbing beans and there are quite a few types to choose from. You also need tall bamboo poles – the taller the better.

How to build a bean tee-pee

Beans like to grow in a free draining soil, that isn’t too rich in nitrogen because they make their own, and in a nice sunny spot. Once you have decided where you want to put your tee-pee, mark out a horseshoe shape.

Build a bean tee-pee

Before you start to dig out a trench around the shape to plant your beans into, grab your lawn mower and check to see the entrance is wide enough to fit inside. If you are able to keep the grass nice and short inside it will make it a more desirable place to hang out.

Once you have removed all the grass and weeds around your tee-pee shape, mix in a little compost. Put the bamboo poles into the trench, evenly spaced around the horseshoe shape and firm into the ground. Gather them together at the top and secure firmly with string.

If the gaps between the bamboo poles seem a little far apart at the bottom you can wind string around the poles to give the beans something to climb up.

Evenly space the bean seeds around the horseshoe about 10 cm apart and push them into the soil up to your first knuckle. Water in well and then just make sure the soil is damp while the seeds germinate. As the beans grow, encourage them to wind their way around the poles.

Keep the bean plants well-watered and the horseshoe weed free and eventually you will end up with a lovely shady hut that will produce a bountiful harvest of beans.

Getting kids involved in the whole process will help to give them ownership over the space and once they know how to take care of it, then the weeding and watering can be something easily done by a child of any age. As they sit in the shade and enjoy what they have created they will have observed how beans emerge from the soil with their seed leaves first. They will watch as the tip of the plant waves about the place looking for its support. Bean flowers are quite beautiful and it is fascinating to observe them develop into something edible that can be snacked on right there and then.

Even if they are only in the bean tee-pee because it is a shady place to keep the sun off the screen on their device, they are still out there, noticing things – whether they want to or not.

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Sarah O’Neil lives on a small 3 acre lifestyle block. The family moved from the big city to the country in 2007. Sarah has published 3 books, including The Good Life, four glorious seasons in my country garden. She's also an award-winning blogger, winning a Yates Vegie Growing Challenge and still writes regularly. Visit Sarah’s website at sarahthegardener.co.nz.

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