“Many famous campers have said that the Indian teepee is the best known movable home. It is roomy, self-ventilating, cannot blow down…” — Ernest Thompson Seton
My hubby has been consumed with his annual gardening ritual. Well, at least that’s what I refer to it as… Even though we have a nice-sized garden in a small Wisconsin city, there is inevitably never enough space. So, he’s been working on perfecting his organization, and I do say it’s seemingly going to pay off. Specifically, I want to share with you how he is entering the realm of vertical gardening by using a time-tested design structure: the tepee (or tipi).
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that store-bought trellises will eat through your budget faster than a potato bug on a potato leaf. So, if you’re like my husband, you ask yourself: what did people do in the past — before things were mass-produced in stores?
That’s why I’m excited to tell you about the tepees that Hubby is using for the pea plants to climb. The idea came to him through The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible (Second Edition),” by Edward C. Smith. It should be easy for you gardeners to scrounge up some sticks in your yard, from a neighbor or even from a downed tree on the side of the road. While you basically want three to four branches per tepee to fashion into their signature tripod-like shape, add more if you wish. In fact, for those of you gardeners living further from the countryside than you’d like, check your home for dowels or other scrap lumber that is rot-resistant, light and straight enough to use for this purpose. Or, as you may have guessed, some type of trellis is more than likely available in your area stores — perhaps if you use them year by year, you’ll feel they’re worth it…
Hubby even found that wrapping thin crafting twine around the branches at the top of the structure has worked for his contraptions. (His are approximately 3 feet (1 meter) tall though, so those of you with towering tepees may want to use something sturdier. Plus, he’s modified the original design by adding a horizontal “bracing” of sticks about half-way up the tepee — we’ll see if that’s actually even necessary or not!)
For more info on constructing a tepee, watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ausKEls_-U or check out garden blogger Mavis Butterfield’s photos and instructions, here: http://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/2013/05/how-to-make-a-bean-teepee/ FUN FACT: Garden tepees can be fun playhouses for kids! (Well, maybe they’d be fun for adults too, he he…)
Besides peas, Smith writes that pole beans, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes and squash can benefit from vertical gardening. Also, Smith points out in his book that not only are you saving garden space, but you’re keeping your harvest off the ground with less of a chance of rot. In essence, vertical gardening can help you produce a higher yield of usable food. And, I’d like to point out that picking peas and beans will be so much easier when you can stick your hands in between the expanse of the teepees’ sticks and discover the veggies faster than trying to find peas and pole beans in a discombobulated bunch. (Plus, the higher up your harvest is, the better for gardeners with aching backs!)
Again, the “roomy, self-ventilating”, “can’t blow down” structure lends perfectly to the gardens of today where we need to maximize space. Since they’re so mobile, you’ll be able to take them down easily at harvest’s end. What will you grow?