How To Grow a Magical, Living Bean Tent
My twin's returned home from school just before Easter proudly clutching (or battling with!) a runner bean plant that had grown to triffid proportions. Swiftly transported to the conservatory windowsill, they have now doubled in size and have wound themselves around the blind cord!
I really must do something with them soon before they take over the house. Which, reminded me of my brief allotment days when I grew a living bean tent. It was so easy to construct and grow, that I'm going to try and recreate it this summer in our back garden. The twin's spent many a happy hour playing in the tent, imaginations running wild (giving me time to battle with the weeds elsewhere on the plot). At the end of the season we then had the joy of picking the beans, followed by eating them. The girls have a tendency to be fussy eaters, but the effort of growing the beans, playing in the tent and then picking the beans tempted them to try eating them.
Surprisingly you don't need a lot of space to grow the tent, as they can be slotted into the back of a flower bed, or even feature as a centre piece of a flowerbed, they are really very pretty in flower as well as being productive. It might be a good idea however to ensure that the children can get inside without trampling on anything too precious!
- Around 30-40 bean seeds (runner, French, vine) Avoid bush varieties.
- 8 bamboo canes, 8 foot tall (you can use less or more depending on space available)
- Well prepared soil bed, with compost added.
- Compost and pots if growing inside to start with, early in the growing season.
- Twine/string. Or cane supports.
First of all choose which variety of bean you want to grow. Any type of vine bean is suitable, just avoid bush or dwarf varieties, as they will be unable to wrap themselves around the canes. I grew runner beans, they are so easy and have attractive scarlet flowers. French beans have a lovely taste, but ensure they remain frost free during the growing season, they may need starting off indoors.
Either grow the beans indoors on a windowsill or in a green house, especially if there is a risk of frost, or wait until later in the growing season.
Decide on a sunny, fertile site to grow the beans. Dig over the soil and add plenty of compost and manure (if you have it). Beans are quite hungry and thirsty plants.
Your next step, which is quite fun, is to construct a wigwam!
Perhaps not quite as large as the above picture!
It's really simple, just arrange the canes in a circle around a foot apart and push firmly into the ground. Leave a slightly larger gap for entrance to the tent. Gather the tops of the canes together to form the wigwam and tie the top of the canes together with string. Wrap and wind the string around lots of times to ensure it is secure, or use cane supports.
Next plant either the bean plants or seeds a couple of inches away from each pole. I would probably plant 3-4 plants per pole. Water well.
Watch, wait and see! The beans will sprout and support themselves in growing up the poles.