Building a Living Teepee

A couple of weeks ago I managed to convince my son Tom, to give up his plastic Wendy house, which he hardly played with anymore, other than to take it apart to give it a ‘sun roof’.. and instead promised him we would build a den. I had thought about building a den made from Willow, which you plant in the ground and weave to create a living teepee, but I’m in the middle of working out what to do with the garden so wanted something a bit more temporary. So instead I decided to try out an idea I had seen on Pinterest – A frame made from bamboo, with climbing beans or peas climbing up. Except we’ve made it using Hazel, as we went to Yorkshire Hurdles last weekend (who make all kinds of amazing things out of Hazel and Willow – check them out on Instagram), and bought several sticks, cut to length so that Tom can walk in once they are pulled together into a teepee shape.

So on Saturday, when we had that one sunny day… we set about making a teepee, and this is how we did it….

1. First I marked out a circle with spray paint (you could use sand) and then removed the turf, leaving space for the door. This channel is where the Hazel sticks will go into the ground and where the beans will be planted. It’s about 20cm wide.

2. Next we dug over the soil and pulled out any weed roots. This is where I started to get Tom involved – he was of course interested in getting his hands into the mud and we used his dumper truck to help move the weeds.I planned to add compost to the soil at this point and then realised I didn’t have any (excellent organisation as usual). So instead I used some loamy soil from a turf stack* I have in the garden, to build up the soil, and I’ll add compost later.

*A turf stack is where you literally stack layers of dug up turf, and then leave it for as long as it takes for all the grass to die and break down (at least a year) – this creates a lovely crumbly, nutrient rich soil known as ‘loam’.

3. Now if you’re using Bamboo canes you won’t need to do this, as they’re not very broad, but with the Hazel, to make it easier to get them into the ground, I used an axe to sharpen the ends. Amazingly I didn’t lose any fingers or toes – it really IS amazing, based on my clumsiness and track record…

4. I then used a spade to create a wedge in the soil and hammered the sticks in with a mallet. Tom pushed the soil all around the base and used his bare feet to firm them in (always Health & Safety conscious here… )

5. Finally time to plant the beans. I chose Runner Beans and Dwarf French Beans. I didn’t intend to buy the dwarf variety, for obvious reasons, but that was all they had available in the shop!I planted 2-3 at the base of each stick, and tied wire around the sticks at 3 intervals up the teepee, to give the beans extra support to cling on to.

6. While we were planting, there were predators circling overhead, waiting for our backs to turn, ready to swoop… or rather there were pigeons, lazily eyeing up the beans while sunbathing on a bench. So the tinfoil came out and I tied it around the wire and on short canes placed around the circle. Tom then moved it all and added A LOT more…

7. Then we stood back and took photos of our masterpiece! Finished! I may add some additional canes and plants some Sweet Peas to grow up as well, we’ll see. Primarily I’m just hoping the pigeon deterrents work and there is enough summer left for the beans to grow up the canes. I’m not very experienced with growing veg, so I’m intrigued to see how the beans grow – any tips let me know… I have romantic ideas of Tom sitting in the teepee, picking beans off and tasting them, I’ll let you know if that image materialises…!

So my idea of a rustic teepee turned into Tom’s tinfoil clad Spaceship – Rocket.. but that’s what it’s all about right?! Just look at that happy face….

If you would like to see live action videos of Tom and I making the teepee, then head over to my facebook page, where you can also find regular updates as my life as a working gardener. You can also find me on instagram

Have you enjoyed reading this How To? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you – let me know if you’d like to know how to do any other things in the garden by hitting the Contact Me button and I’ll get Tom on it!

Until next time, Happy Gardening x