If you want to encourage children to start growing ‘incredible edibles,’ then this might be just the project to get them excited! With a little creative thinking, themed gardens help children learn while they are having fun. Here’s a cool garden project for the ‘kid’ in all of us – complete with Beans, Beanstalk and even a Giant!
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” – Albert Einstein
How to Create Your ‘Jack and the Bean Stalk & Giant’ Garden
- There are 3 elements to this garden theme – the bean seeds; the beanstalk structure they need to climb up on like Jack did, and the ‘Giant.’
- Beans are one of the most popular and easy vegetables to grow and come in all shapes and sizes – from climbers to compact dwarf (bush) varieties; some with regular sized beans and others with long pods and all different colours.
- Beans are easy to grow in all zones at some time of the year if they have sufficient water and wind protection. Green beans don’t like frost and prefer a sunny spot to grow so find a suitable location in your garden – if you don’t get a lot of sun, try growing in a pot on castors so you can move it around during the day (I have a few of these ‘meals on wheels’ gardens at my place).
- Most children are familiar with the ‘Jack and the Bean Stalk’ story and starting with a handful of beans is a great opportunity to discuss how plants grow and the ‘magic’ inside a bean seed (all the food it needs to grow its first two leaves)!
- Select more than one variety of beans to grow at the same time in different containers or garden beds and compare how tall and fast they grow. Some of the climbing bean varieties are very vigorous and high yielding and other dwarf varieties grow in very compact spaces but produce a wonderful harvest.
- There are plenty of bean varieties to try. Long and skinny Snake Beans have a lengthy growing season, are vigorous and go nuts in spring and Winged Beans (‘Psophocarpus tetragonolobus’) are delicious long thin beans with fluffy ‘wings’ on the edge and unusual four-angled pods (they do grow up to 3m and like plenty of ‘personal space’ so a trellis on a wall would be good use of vertical space, unless you want to build a huge tepee! They are vigorous climbers and the pods, leaves, flowers and tubers are all edible. You would probably only need one – they are definitely a true Jack and the Beanstalk plant but are only suitable for sub-tropical and tropical regions!
- Another great variety are ‘Purple King’ climbing beans with huge dark purple bean pods about 18cm long which change colour to a dark green when cooked! Magic beans indeed. They have a long picking period, are high yielding and taste great too.
- Remember – if you want to save money by saving your own seeds from your first crop, make sure you ONLY grow open-pollinated and heirloom seed varieties.
- Kids love growing and tasting beans even before they mature. Young tender beans taste so different from store bought beans that have been footballing around the country in trucks and cold storage! Once children have grown their own, there’s no turning back to supermarket beans.
- Finally, for the ‘Giant’ in this ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ theme garden, try growing large vegetables like gourds, melons, pumpkins, giant sunflowers and luffas (mature fruits can be dried and used as a bathroom sponge) or varieties with names that reflect their size or height such as Mustard ‘Red Giant’, ‘Giant Carentan’ Leeks, Snowpea ‘Melting Mammoth’ and ‘Giant of Italy’ Parsley. New Guinea Bean is an edible gourd that tastes like beans and is prepared like zucchini and is another option.
Growing Tips for Happy Healthy Beans
- Good drainage, regular water and sun (provide some temporary shade in very hot dry weather);
- Sow in a ‘bed’ of potting mix or soil rich in compost prepared for planting with a balanced ‘diet’ of organic fertiliser that includes rock minerals;
- A ‘blanket’ of mulch;
- If sowing seed directly into the soil where the beans will grow, sow to a depth of twice the length of the seed;
- Water frequently while the bean buds are forming – try a compost tea, liquid seaweed or fish emulsion or some worm juice weekly;
- Green beans are best raw, steamed or stir-fried for a minimal time so they keep their wonderful green colour.
“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” – Gertrude Jekyll
You might also enjoy Gardens for Kids, Thrifty Recycling Ideas for making your own garden tools for kids and showing children How to Grow Sprouts. Check out Clever Container Ideas and Sensational Shoe Planters (repurpose children’s boots and shoes) with amazing photos to help get you inspired too.
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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2016. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.