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How to grow a sunflower or string bean teepee

Kids love to learn about how plants grow. Growing sunflowers or string beans is a great way to teach them about caring for plants.

String bean fort

Photo credit: Artful Parent (Jean Van’t Hul)

For added fun, why not train the plants to form a teepee for outdoor fun in the shade? Keep reading for how to grow your own.

Sunflower fort

Planting a sunflower fort is an easy way to create a playhouse for your kids in the summer heat and a fun way to teach them about gardening.

  • Choose an area of your yard or garden that has full sun, which encourages the best growth for sunflowers.
  • Select one of the larger varieties of sunflowers, such as Mammoth, American Giant or Skyscraper.
  • Sprout the seedlings indoors if necessary, or plant seeds directly into the ground.
  • Plant your sunflowers in either a circle or a rectangle, leaving an opening for the entrance to your playhouse. You can also plant corn between each of the sunflowers to help enclose the playhouse.
  • Giant varieties of sunflowers generally have strong stems and do not need to be staked, unless you have concerns about heavy winds.
  • When the sunflowers reach a height of five feet or so, begin to shape the roof by gently looping bailing twine around the head of one flower and joining it to a flower on the opposite side. Pair up the flowers down the line until you have formed a roof. You can adjust the twine as the plants continue to grow.

As your sunflowers grow taller, they form a wonderful shaded playhouse. Add a blanket on the floor and watch the fun begin.

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String bean teepee

Growing a teepee made of string bean vines is another fun idea for your kids and easy to do.

  • Choose seeds that are a type of pole beans, which are climbers and can grow up to six feet tall.
  • Select an area in your yard that gets good sun exposure.
  • You will use six bamboo poles approximately eight feet each in length to create the teepee shell for the beans to climb. Lean the poles against each other to form a circle on the ground, making sure to leave a small opening for the entrance of your teepee. Tie the poles together at the top firmly, and pack soil around the bases of the poles.
  • Weave twine or wire between the poles at two-foot intervals, giving the vines more surface area to cling to.
  • Plant two or three seeds at the base of each pole, to ensure that you have at least one healthy plant per pole. As your bean plants grow, train the vines to climb both the poles and the twine.
  • An added benefit to growing string beans is how excited kids are to try them as a snack, since they helped care for the plants.

The end result is a magical, shaded area your child will love in the hottest summer months.

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Keep the kids involved

Creating an outdoor play area with living plants can be a fun experience for the whole family. From purchasing the seeds or seedlings to digging the holes, there are ways to include even the smallest members of your family in this project. Consider purchasing kid-sized tools to make digging easier, and a small watering can that lets little ones water plants with ease.

More gardening with kids

Why you should get kids excited about gardening
Kid-friendly gardening projects
Gardening for picky eaters

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