DIY Vertical Tepee Garden!
One of the most useful structures in my garden are bamboo tepees as they are the perfect vertical solution for growing more in less space. Here’s my simple system for making a 3 or 4 legged tepee from bamboo stakes in around a minute for under a $1!
Why use Bamboo?
Bamboo is a renewable resource, it grows easily in our sub-tropical region so many people have access to their own backyard supply but it’s low-cost and good value if you need to buy a few stakes. Bamboo is long lasting, flexible, attractive, multi-purpose, takes up minimal space and is lightweight – so needless to say, it is a material I love using in my garden.
When giving garden lessons to groups of school students I had to teach them a system to make tepees fast but one that would still last the distance! I developed this quick, easy, cheap and fun way to make your own tepee and a practical way to grow climbers like beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants in a compact space.
How to Make Your Tepee
- Grab a strong rubber band, a piece of string or baling twine (about 40cm long), a pair of scissors and your bamboo stakes. I like using twine that has some grip like the roll below so that the tie doesn’t slip as you wind and stays in place for the life of the tepee.
- The number of stakes you need depends on whether you are putting the tepee in a rectangular/square container or in a garden bed (4 stakes is usually a good stable number to use) or a round pot (try 3 stakes if the pot is small).
- The height of the stakes depends on the variety of climbing crop you choose to grow. I have both short and tall tepees to suit a variety of crops. I’ve also found that indeterminate tomatoes and cucumbers do well on taller tepees.
- If you’re lucky enough to grow your own bamboo, you can cut and trim your own stakes. Otherwise ready made bamboo stakes (or canes) are available at hardware, garden and horticultural supply stores – I buy mine in a bulk pack of 50 either in a 900mm or 1200mm length.
“A finished tepee with 4 stakes only costs me around 80-90c – a very affordable investment!”
How to Make Your Tepee – Instructions:
- Grab the top of all the stakes together in one hand so the ends of the stakes are level with each other. With your other hand secure the rubber band around the top of all the stakes about 5cm (2 inches) from the top to hold them all together. (Now I said this takes a minute – we’re not done yet!)
- The rubber band won’t stand up to the sun for long, so you need to thread the string just below the rubber band over AND under each of the 3 or 4 stakes until they are well secured to each other. This should take about 45 seconds!
- Then just tie a double bow around the outside and you’re done! You can now pull off the rubber band and re-use it. Easy as that!
- Spread the stakes out to secure them into the soil in your garden or pot, pushing them well down so they stay put!
- For additional support, I like to wind some extra string around each of the 3 or 4 stakes at three different horizontal levels (about 10-20cm from the bottom, 40cm from the bottom and then again about 15cm above that again – depending on the height of the stakes you can just divide it roughly into thirds.)
- As the climbing beans (or other crop) grows, they can be trained or threaded through the string between the stakes and given support and as they reach the top, additional string can be used to tie them off.
Tips for Using & Storing Your Bamboo Tepee
- The tepee structure provides good air circulation around the plant which helps prevent diseases. By keeping the stems, leaves and fruit up off the soil or mulch, they are also less likely to be accessible to pests.
- You can easily cover your tepee with shade cloth or netting to protect your plants from weather extremes.
- Once you’ve finished growing beans or peas on your tepee, re-use it for other edible climbers like tomatoes or cucumbers. For soil and plant health, I recommend practicing crop rotation – as legumes like beans and peas leave a lot of nitrogen in the soil, it’s great to follow them with a flowering crop like tomatoes, capsicum, cucumbers and eggplant which are heavy feeders.
- When you are not using the tepee, collapse it down and fold all the stakes in tight together and wrap a rubber band around them – they take up virtually no space to store and are ready to go when you need them for the next crop! They are also an easy fun project for kids to get started in the garden.
- Bamboo stakes make wonderful tools in the garden for adults and children. Try using them as plant supports, giant rulers for measuring and dibbing sticks for sowing seeds and making shallow trenches.
- There are two ways to make a measuring stick from a bamboo stake: Before making the tepee, get a permanent marker and measure out 5cm spacing along one side of one of the stakes, adding marks for the centimetres in between just like a giant ruler if you wish. When positioning the tepee in the garden, make sure this faces outward so the markings are visible. As the bean plant matures, children can practice their maths, reading and writing skills by keeping a daily journal of how high it grows. This also provides tangible evidence that change is taking place day by day and helps them keep an interest to see how tall their ‘beanstalk’ is growing and when it stops! They can also record how many beans or peas each plant produces, how long they are and also save seeds from the best ones (make sure you choose heirloom seed varieties to do this).
- Alternatively, you can make a giant bamboo ruler out of a single stake that is not part of a tepee which can be used to help with plant spacing and other measuring tasks. It is a super easy tool to use to help sow plants or seeds the right distance apart as you just lay it on the soil and plant beside it. Stick it in the soil vertically when not in use or keep in your potting shed.
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