By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
One of my favorite gardening stories I have has to do with my children and my local library’s reading program.
The story begins with my children and I going to the library to pick up some books for their summertime reading program.
While my children searched for their favorite topics and stories, I was looking for the classics.
This included some I enjoyed as a child and some that had a moral lesson I hoped to teach them. My son picked out books on cars and dinosaurs will my daughter picked out books on animals. I picked out a book on children’s fables.
Before going home that day, we also stopped off at the feed and seed so that I could pick up some garden seed. Radishes, cucumbers, lettuce, and watermelon seed were a few I selected along with green beans. While this single step may seem to be insignificant, it was an important event that would set the rest of the summer.
So the next day, I set out to plant my new seeds. Lettuce was planted first along with radishes. Cucumbers were planted along side the lettuce and the watermelon was planted beside the chain-linked fence that I was going to use as a trellis. Then came the beans.
As I reached for the package, I noticed that I had not gotten bush beans but instead pole beans. While I had not planned to trellis anything except the watermelon, I decided to go ahead and plant them. I really did not want to head out to the feed and seed again and I had available trellising material so I thought what the heck.
But as life would have it, I was stopped in my garden path with the call for lunch from my children.
Life rituals were pretty much set in stone. Breakfast at 7, lunch at 12, and dinner at 6. Reading time was twice a day and occurred at 12:30 and 8 o’clock. So after lunch, we sat down for our reading time. Each child got to pick a book but we finished that book before moving on to the next. So at this time, we were finishing up a book my son had picked. I thought what a perfect time to start a new book. While my kids napped, I picked up that children’s book on fables and began to skim its content.
The mysteries of life are hard to explain and when they intervene it is hard to know why but when it happens it normally works out to be a wonderful thing. And for my family, life’s mysteries are what happened.
While I was thumbing through the book, I fell asleep. As every mother knows, slumber when your children are young is worth its weight in gold. During my brief reprieve from motherhood, somehow the book’s pages turned. I would like to think it was a garden fairy intervention but regardless of what it may have been I awoke to the story of Jack and the Beanstalk in my lap.
At that moment, I had an idea to turn a mistake I had made at the feed store into a positive. So when my children arose from their slumber, we went outside to begin to plant our own Jack in the Beanstalk.
To create your own fabled garden with teepee, one first needs to mix in a lot of compost into the soil. Once this is done plan where you would like your teepee to be placed. Mark the spots where you would like to place the legs of the teepee with powdered milk. In these areas create mounds that are two to four inches tall and six to eight inches wide. Once this is done plant three to four bean seeds in each mound at a planting depth of one inch. After that is done, place the legs of the teepee in the center of each mound and tie the top off with garden twine. Now that is done, water in your seeds and wait.
Once the green beans start to germinate, train them to grow up the poles.
If you create a large enough teepee, you can turn it into a special reading space that not only provides shade but also helps books come alive, like Jack in the Beanstalk.
As the summer progressed, my children and I read many books under our green bean teepee. We sailed the seas, explored foreign lands, and had moral lessons on life all the while taking refuge under what had been a mistake but now was an unforgettable moment in time.
Today, my children still remember that teepee but their memories are a little different then mine. They remember picking the fresh green beans right off the vine and eating them. I asked my son why he did not remember the books and he said because mom you always preached to us about washing the green beans first. Well I guess a little garden dirt never hurt anyone and my kids are living proof plus their constant picking of a fresh snack increased our yield.
Regardless if your kids are grown, have no kids or not sure about growing beans, I can promise you that this little vegetable is very easy to grow. Both the bush and pole variety will award you with many messes of green beans, especially if you pick them often. The only hint I would give you is to keep the soil moisture even and water in the morning. Wet leaves are an invitation to plant diseases.
So until we blog again, introduce your family to the wonders of the vegetable kingdom by planting one of nature’s portable snacks. And while you are at it, pick up a good book to read in your garden hideaway.