I spend a lot of time in the garden, most of that time I have my kids with me. I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I needed something to keep them entertained while I worked and if it could be part of the garden even better! I wanted something they could play in/with that I would also be useful to grow food on.
When I was little my grandfather used to grow green bean teepees for my sister and I; I wanted that secret garden feeling but with enough room for 2+ kids and play.
I turned to cattle panels because they’re sturdy, easy to work with and relatively cheap. I picked up three last summer at Running’s for about $20 each. I used two for this project and the third was put to use as a temporary baby gate/’keep the geese from pooping all over my deck’ gate.
Cattle Panel Arch Supplies:
- Cattle panels (16 feet x 50 inches) I used 2
- 4 foot pieces of rebar, 4 per panel
- 7 Pool Noodles
- Wood & Hardware for garden beds (optional)
- Mark your location, remove any large weeds and level the ground if necessary (or be like me and don’t do any of that and just struggle)
- Pound in two pieces of rebar where you want the short side of the arch
- Slip the cattle panel over the rebar weave it so the rebar goes through the panel in a few places and carefully stand it up and let it flop over to the other side. I know I’m not explaining well so I hope the picture helps
- Mark the the last two pieces of rebar need to go in the ground and move the cattle panel back out of the way.
- Pound in the remaining rebar
- This is the tricky part, stand up the panel again and you need to over bend it a little to get the rebar in the right holes. This part is much easier with two people! If you’re doing two or more panels I recommend doing all of one side first then moving to the next so you aren’t tripping over the panels.
- Cut each pool noodle into 4 pieces and slice each one up the side
- Slide the noodles onto the edges of the cattle panel (they can be sharp) taking care to cover the rebar
- Everything in my garden is in raised beds because of poorly draining clay soil so I had to add beds to this too. I wanted them to fit in with the rest of my garden (I use a push mower between the beds and I wanted to be able to mow in a straight line) so I made them out of 2*6 boards. The beds are 100 inches (2 cattle panels) by 2 feet. This year I have pole beans planted on either side. Next year I think I’m going to try gourds.
I threw down a few old blankets to give the girls something to play on and out cattle panel arch is currently the home to our turtle sandbox. I’m in the very slow process of fencing in the garden and eventually I’ll have a swing set and their little house moved into the shady spot where I haven’t bothered trying to grow anything. I’ve got ginger skin (thanks mom!) and my two little ladies are just as pale as I am so I can’t wait for the beans to fill in and create a shady spot for them to play.
The pool noddles are so bright and cheerful, the effect reminds me of the painted pasta necklaces you make in preschool. It really stands out in the garden and you can see it from the road. If you’re looking for something less whimsical you can get similar black foam tubing used to insulate pipes.
Side note – Chickens will gladly eat/destroy pool noodles. When the snow took down the temporary fencing the chickens helped themselves into the garden and ruined the original set of noodles. I’m 5’10 and I can stand inside without needing to bend, I’m sure once the beans start coming in I’ll have to be more careful.
It also had the wonderful side effect of getting my kids to eat fresh beans daily. I grew Rattlesnake and Kentucky Wonder pole beans. It was pretty neat that they had different colored flowers so you could easily tell them apart even before the beans arrived. The rattlesnake have pretty purple stripes on them and the Kentucky wonder look like your basic green bean.
My garden is an old horse riding ring and it’s surrounded by telephone pole fence posts. I’ve been working my way around the garden with metal fencing but at the moment I have quite a bit of temporary fencing (the green stuff).
The fluffy looking mess is my asparagus and there are black raspberries along the front and left fence line. I’m adding another set of beds this year and hopefully even more later this year or next spring.
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