Kids’ Container Gardening

Planting a bean teepee helps little green thumbs learn gardening skills early

Photograph by Greg Silva

Starting children on the gardening path early helps them to make a connection between the seed planted in the garden and the food on their plate, and awakens their senses to new culinary possibilities. Maintaining a home garden also helps to encourage adventurous eating and healthy food choices that can last a lifetime.

According to the National Gardening Association, the nation’s leading provider of plant-based educational materials for grades K-12, gardening helps children gain knowledge in science, literacy, nutrition, the environment, and problem-solving. And gardening provides ready-to-eat treats, too.

A “bean teepee” is a child-friendly gardening champion. Pole beans are the perfect growers, as these climbing plants will quickly cover the simple teepee frame. This great-looking architectural feature also provides kids with fantasy-play and hiding places.

Kids can decorate the outside of their teepee with quick-growing flowers like nasturtiums, sunflowers, and marigolds. They can plant them in creative containers like an old basket, a forgotten dump truck, or even outgrown shoes. They’ll quickly learn that working in the garden is a delight instead of a chore.

To guarantee that this weekend project is filled with messy fun and will ensure a plentiful harvest, plan ahead. First, check your calendar. To be sure your beans will sprout, wait until all danger of frost has passed and the soil remains above 65 degrees (typically March 1 in the South Bay). Second, consider your location. Pole beans need at least five hours of direct sunlight each day. Check your site’s light pattern and choose a sunny spot.

Supply list
• three pots (15- or 25-gallon size)
• organic potting soil mix
• three six-foot-long bamboo poles or garden stakes
• biodegradable, natural-fiber twine
• one packet of pole beans (not bush beans, which do not climb as high)

Getting started
Space the three pots two feet apart in a triangle shape. Place a pole in each pot and tie the tops of the three poles together. Fill the pots with rich, organic gardening soil.

Planting how-to
Have your child push the seeds with his or her fingers into the soil 1.5 inches deep. Space the seeds every two to three inches around each pole.

Feeding and watering
Since container plants cannot pull their nutrients from the ground, they need to be fed throughout the season. Try an organic liquid fertilizer at half-strength, applied every three weeks or so. Also, be sure to keep your beans watered. A drip line or soaker hose is better than overhead watering, which can encourage mildew and other unwanted diseases.

Harvest often
Pick the beans as soon as they reach a desirable size. At the young stage, they are tender and tasty eaten straight from the vine.

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Jessica Iclisoy is the founder of California Baby, a natural skincare line for babies, kids, and sensitive adults. Visit her website at