Let kids help pick out the seeds to grow for their hideaways. Explain to them the difference between “bush” and “pole” or vining varieties, but let them choose their favorite peas, beans, squash, and flowers to make it THEIR special place!
A PEAceful Lean-To
(Note: Peas are a cool-season crop, so grow this hideaway early in the season.)
What you need:
- (3) Wooden stakes, 5 to 6 feet tall
- Polypropylene netting, like Trellis Plus from Johnny’s Select Seeds, cut to 6 feet in length
- Staple gun and staples
- Pea seeds (choose tall vining varieties like Sugar Snap, Maxigolt, or Golden Sweet)
- Hand trowel
- Choose a supportive wall in a sunny location.
- Spread out the netting on the ground and cut to the desired length.
- Weave a wooden stake through the left side of the netting, and use staples to secure the netting to the stake. Repeat on the right side, as well as in the middle of the netting to help keep it taut.
- Dig three 6-inch-deep holes for the wooden stakes, and insert the stakes in the holes at an angle, leaning the top of the stakes against the supportive wall. Fill in the first hole with soil, packing it tightly to support the stake. It’s helpful for another adult to hold the end stake and netting so that it’s taut while you fill in each hole.
- Once the stakes and nets are leaning against the wall, it’s time to plant! Let the kids pick which peas they want to grow. Try mixing different varieties so kids can experience the various flowers, pea colors, pod shapes, and flavor.
- Dig holes along the bottom of the netting, spacing pea seeds about 2 inches apart. Plant the seeds ½-inch deep, then cover with soil.
- Water well.
- Peas typically sprout in about a week. The plants need an inch of water each week, so make sure to give them a drink when the top inch of soil feels dry. The vines should easily grab onto the netting, but you may need to help guide them a bit. Let the kids help!
- As the vines fill in, encourage the kids to use the lean-to as a secret hideout or reading nook. The best part is: as the vines produce pods, kids can enjoy an instant garden snack, picked straight from the vines. Peas taste scrumptious eaten fresh from the garden.
- Because pea vines dislike hot weather and will fade as temperatures rise, add pole bean seeds or vining flowers to replace the peas for a summer-long retreat.
Most veggies, like peas, beans, and squash, need at least 6 hours of sun each day. Make sure to pick a sunny spot for the garden hideaway.
Pole Bean Teepee
What You’ll Need:
- 8 bamboo or wooden poles, 8 to 10 feet tall
- Jute or strong string
- Garden soil (optional)
- Pole bean seeds (also known as “runner” beans)
- Annual vining flower seeds, like morning glory, cardinal climber, or black-eyed Susan vine (optional)
- Choose a sunny, level site in the yard.
- Outline a crescent-shaped space for the teepee with string. Remember to leave an opening for the doorway.
- Remove grass from the curved outline with a shovel, and add garden soil if needed.
- To assemble the poles, push the bottom end into the soil, spacing the poles about two feet apart.
- Gather the top of the poles together and secure them with twine.
- Once the poles are connected, weave twine through the frame to create a trellis for the vines to climb. Start at the top and weave the twine tightly through the frame, spiraling around and down the frame to the ground. Make sure to leave an opening for the doorway.
- After the danger of frost has passed, plant bean seeds 1 inch deep and about 2 inches apart along the base of the frame. Cover with soil and water well. To add more color, plant sun-loving vining flowers along with the beans, if you like.
- As the seedlings grow, guide them onto the trellis. They’ll continue growing up the structure for a lush layer of leaves that will make a perfect hideout.
- Beans need about an inch of water each week. When the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to give them a drink.
- Have the kids keep a lookout for the first flowers, followed by beans. For fun, try growing “magic” beans—purple podded pole beans that turn green when they’re cooked!
Choose a location for the vine-covered hideaways near a water source for easy veggie watering.
Squash Tunnel Reading Nook
“Tall and vining veggies can be used to make great garden hideouts,” says Heather Kibble, Sakata Seed America, Inc. Sales Manager, Home Grown Division. “The plants provide refuge from the summer heat and create soothing sounds…It seems you can actually see squash vines grow in the summer, and the big leaves are like shade tents for birds and insects. Squash blooms are large and bright and make a great backdrop for observing pollinators at work. It is fun to watch squash and pumpkins plump up as the summer progresses into fall…”
This easy-to-make tunnel requires an extra set of grown-up hands for the installation. But then let the kids have fun planting the seeds! Squash varieties with smaller fruit work best for vertical growing.
What You Need:
- Cattle panel, typically sold as 16-feet by 50-inches (although sizes vary)
- (4) T-posts or ½-inch rebar, 4-feet tall
- (4) Zip ties
- Vining squash seeds, like Sweet Dumpling or Little Dipper
- Hand trowel
- Choose a sunny space on a level site.
- Determine how wide to make the tunnel. Younger kids don’t require a tall hideout, so you may want to make the tunnel wider instead of narrow and tall, giving them plenty of room to play.
- Place a t-post or rebar in each corner to anchor the cattle panel. Drive the post about 12 inches into the ground.
- Attach the cattle panel to the t-posts or rebar. Secure the panel to the posts with zip ties on one side, then bend the panel to form an arch and attach it to the posts on the second side. The panel should be flush to the ground on both sides.
- Dig holes along the bottom of each side of the cattle panel, and plant the squash seeds about one inch deep. Space the seeds 6 inches apart, then cover with soil and water. Make sure all danger of frost has passed—squash is a warm-season veggie and dislikes frost.
- Water well throughout the summer.
- As the squash vines grow, help direct them upward to weave through the cattle panel until the tunnel is fully covered for a perfect hideout. Add a blanket or chair for a perfect reading nook.
- Harvest squash as it ripens, and enjoy a garden-to-table family meal.
Now you can create your own garden hideaway!
With just a little time and planning, you’ve created fabulous garden hideaways that kids will enjoy all spring, summer, and fall—and again next year, planted with fresh vines. Plus, you’ll love how easy it is to harvest the tasty veggies when they grow vertically.
Who knows? If you’re lucky, maybe the kids will invite you to share their secret space—as long as you bring the snacks. (Or maybe you can relax and enjoy a good book while they’re busy playing in their great garden hideout!) Whether they enjoy the space alone or with others, they’ll create great memories in their garden hideout.
“This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and our members. Please credit and link to National Garden Bureau and author member when using all or parts of this article.”