I have always wanted to grow a bean hut. I was inspired by the book Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots years ago, but the fun projects always get pushed to the bottom of the list. We finally made it happen last summer at House in the Woods Farm.
Our CSA members come to the farm weekly to pick up their share of the harvest. A bean hut is a great way to engage children on the farm or in the garden. I enjoyed watching the children’s eyes widen when they could finally see the purple beans hanging from the vines. Their grownups would pick them up so the kids could stretch up and pick a long purple bean from the roof of the hut.
It was so easy to set up — I am not sure why it took so long to bring to fruition. Here is how we did it.
Designing a Bean Pole Hut
We propped up a 16-foot cattle panel, folded over longwise into a trellis. It makes a nice rounded walkway, like a gateway into our garden. With our panel folded over, came out over 6 feet tall and about 5 feet wide. We secured down a strip of plastic mulch under the panel on each side, to keep down weeds where the beans are planted.
Our mulch went all the way across the trellis, but strips on either side under the panel would be sufficient. We set the trellis over it, pressing it into the soil a bit to take hold. Holes for the beans go on the outside edge of the trellis every few inches. The bonus is that the trellis is set up and ready for next season, too.
A trellis could be set up in different shapes. It could be a bean teepee, a gourd hut, or a tunnel of beans and gourds. It could have a little table and chairs in it, or a couple seats made out of big tree stumps. Imagine the possibilities!
Bean Varieties to Plant
I planted purple pole beans. Any pole bean will work. Avoid bush varieties. These need to be pole beans in order to climb the trellis. Pole beans love to wrap around poles and reach up to the sky. I also planted gourds on the same trellis, but I might just make it all beans next year.
The miniature gourds climbed the trellis and mixed in fine. I was trying to mix beans and gourds so that the beans are harvested first, and then the gourds come in. The bright-yellow mini gourds were like little surprises throughout the hut. Gourd plants need more spacing than beans in the ground. I got a few mini gourds and plenty of purple beans. The larger gourds didn’t survive the competition.
Materials for the 'Floor'
We put white plastic under the trellis for weed control, but that was a slipping hazard when wet. It would be ideal to use woven cloth or a layer of straw. You could plant some grass or fast-growing clover, but it would need to be planted right away to strengthen before people will be walking on it. I might still put a strip of plastic mulch under the panel for the place the seeds are planted.
How to Plant
We started bean plants from seed in trays in spring and then transplanted them. You can seed them directly, and weed them once a week until they are established. Plant every 3 to 6 inches. A bean trellis can be planted outside anytime between May and July. Two successions could be planted for an early and late crop.
I might experiment with doing only beans and then another year, only gourds. Or perhaps spring beans and then pull them and plant fall gourds. The combination possibilities are plentiful.
I look forward to planting some joy again with another bean trellis this season. It was such a delight for CSA members coming to our farm to pick up their produce. Picking some beans from the trellis is a great way to involve little ones in the garden.
Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life on the farm's Facebook Page. For more about House in the Woods Farm, go to the House in the Woods website, and read all of Ilene's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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