On our city block, neighbors plant small gardens in the grassy area between the sidewalk and the street. By August, the tilled quadrants form a colorful mosaic of vegetables, flowers and herbs, each plot developing a character of its own under the summer sun. My kids' favorite is the tepee garden. With only six bare poles and a ball of twine, a handful of seeds grows into a cozy hiding spot for a child's imagination and for munching a sweet green bean or two.
Here are basic steps to grow your own as adapted from the book "Green Beans and Tambourines" (Storey Communications Inc.):Prepare the soil by weeding and spading. Smooth with a rake. Stand six poles, each 6 to 8 feet long, in a circle in the plot. Bring the tops together to form a tepee shape and tie twine around them until secure. Put a thick layer of hay inside the structure to keep weeds from growing in the hiding place.
Tie twine to the bottom of one pole. Pull it tight and wrap it around the pole next to it, about one foot higher than your original tying spot. Wrap it around the second pole twice, then wrap it back around your original pole about one foot higher than the spot you just came from. Continue zigzagging until you reach the top. Zigzag down the poles so the twine forms little X's between the poles. Repeat between all poles except between the two that form the tepee door.
Plant five or six pole bean seeds around the base of each pole. Water. The beans sprout in a week or so. Guide the plants to the string, keep well watered and watch them grow!
Variation: If you don't have a garden, grow a mini green-bean tepee in a large flowerpot that has drainage holes. Use wooden dowels instead of poles. Plant on a sunny deck or porch. Encourage young children to water and care for the little plot. As the tepee fills out, they'll enjoy playing with toy figures inside.