Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
November, 2000
Regional Report

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A tepee in the Children's Garden at Maricopa County Cooperative Extension will soon be covered with beans.

A Kid's Plant Tepee

Kids can be enthusiastic gardeners, especially when a little playtime is thrown in. If you want to encourage your children to love plants, try making a plant tepee with them. The tepee provides a framework for vines to crawl up and when covered, it provides a nifty "secret garden" for kids to hide and giggle in while eating veggies or picking flowers.

Where to Plant the Tepee

The location of your tepee should be a sunny spot out of the wind in compost-amended garden soil. If you're planting annual flowers or vegetables, loosen the soil well before planting to help with germination and early growth.

Making a Tepee

Use at least three 6- to 8-foot poles as your supports. The more poles, the sturdier the tepee and the more plant weight it will support. This is especially important if you're growing cucumbers, gourds, or melons on your tepee. Set the poles firmly in the ground several feet apart in a triangle shape and lash them together at the top with a strong cord. Wrap string or other ties around the tepee every 8 to 12 inches so the vines have something to climb on. Leave an opening in the front for your tepee dwellers to enter.

What to Plant

The cool growing season of winter is a perfect time to make a tepee in the low desert. The weather's just right (even kids don't want to sit in a tepee in the middle of summer), and a variety of twining plants grow well now. Consider planting pole beans, edible peas, or sweet peas. My favorite plant as a kid was peas because I could pop the delicious pods right into my mouth. Sweet peas are also fun because of their heady fragrance. However, any vining plant will work, including purple hyacinth bean, scarlet runner bean, and nasturtium.

How to Plant

Plant seeds around the outside edge of the tepee and keep them consistently moist until they germinate. As they begin to grow, train them up the tepee until they start climbing on their own. It's a good idea to spread several inches of a dry mulch, such as heavy chipped straw, on the floor of the tepee for kids to sit on.

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