How to Build a Natural Bean Trellis

Give aggressive runner beans somewhere to grow by building a tepee-style trellis from things found around your farm.

by Dani Yokhna

How to Build a Natural Bean Trellis - Photo by Jessica Walliser ( 

Vining crops, like pole beans and runner beans, require a climbing structure to support them as they grow. Mature vines can reach upwards of 10 feet high, so wimpy supports won’t do—you’ll need something sturdy. Chances are, you’ll also want something natural and beautiful, and you won’t want to spend a lot of money on it either. What’s a gardener to do? Build a tepee!

This easy-to-build tepee bean trellis is the perfect way to support a hearty crop of climbing beans. You can build it in just about an hour, and it doesn’t even require a trip to the hardware store: You can find everything you need on your farm or in nearby woods.

Siting and Spacing

A single, 6- to 7-foot-tall tepee occupies about a 5-foot-diameter circle of garden space. Because beans and other vining crops require a full six to eight hours of full sun for optimum growth and production, be sure to put your tepee in a sunny location. For large gardens, build multiple tepees with 3 to 4 feet between them, or randomly place several tepees throughout the garden, surrounding them with sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, or other flower or vegetable crops. The natural materials used to make this tepee blend in perfectly with the garden.

What You’ll Need

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  • handsaw
  • pruning shears or loppers
  • jute or hemp twine
  • scissors
  • hammer or small mallet
  • 5 straight, thick tree branches, each about 2 to 3 inches in caliper and 8 to 10 feet long (Tapered branches work best.)
  • about 50 feet of wild, cultivated, or purchased grapevine (The vine can be several shorter sections combined. Wild forms of this invasive plant can easily be pulled down from trees during the winter months. If no grapevine is available for collecting, you can purchase coiled grapevine from online craft-supply retailers.)
  • 3 2-foot-long wooden or rebar stakes

Step 1

Lay the five branches on the ground near the site of the tepee’s intended location. Put three branches on the bottom of the stack and two on the top. As you lay them down, make sure all the narrow ends are together on one side and the thick ends are at the other.

Step 2

Use a long piece of jute or hemp twine to lash the branches together about 18 inches to 2 feet below the narrower end of the branches. Don’t bind them too tightly; the twine must have a bit of give. Once the five branches are tied together, move them to their intended location and stand them up together, on their thick ends. The narrow, lashed ends should be up. Spread the legs out evenly in a 5-foot-diameter circle.

Step 3

Hammer one of the three wooden or rebar stakes halfway into the ground, next to the base of one of the tepee legs. Lash the stake to the tepee leg with more twine. Repeat the process with the remaining two stakes and two other legs of the tepee. This will stabilize the tepee and keep it from blowing over.

Step 4

Tie one end of a length of grapevine to the place where the tepee legs are lashed together at the top, then loosely wrap the grapevine down and around the exterior of the entire tepee. When you reach the end of the grapevine, use a piece of twine to tie it to one of the legs and then start where you left off with another section of grapevine. Keep wrapping the grapevines around the tepee until they’re all used. Because pole and runner beans are quite aggressive growers, there’s no need to cover the whole outside of the tepee with grapevines. Just casually wrap them around and the beans will fill in any and all gaps.

Step 5

Plant a bean seed every 4 to 6 inches around the diameter of the tepee’s footprint. As the bean plants grow, gently help them find a piece of the tepee to cling to. Once they wrap themselves around one of the grapevines, there’s no stopping them!

Harvesting pole and runner beans grown on a tepee is a snap. You’ll find that most of the mature beans will be located on the exterior of the tepee, where the sun is brightest and the pollinators are most active. Simply walk around the tepee and pluck off the beans.

As an added bonus, the shady spot underneath the tepee is the perfect place to toss a few lettuce seeds for summer harvests. They’ll enjoy the shade and shelter of the bean tepee during the warmer months, and you’ll enjoy an extended lettuce harvest.

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About the Author: Horticulturist Jessica Walliser is the author of the book Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Timber Press, 2014).You can connect with her at

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