Monday, April 19, 2010

Giving Beans and Peas a Head Start

Because of limited space in my floating garden, I grow lots of things in pots on the cabin deck. That's where you'll find my potatoes and tomatoes. Last year I successfully grew Snow Peas in a large pot with a homemade trellis. This year I'm going to move my green beans to a pot as well. That will save garden space for my annual asparagus, strawberries and herbs, and my seasonal carrots, beets, onions, spinach, lettuce, chard and radishes.

I've had problems getting beans and peas to sprout directly in the soil.
This year I decided to try using potting mix in cardboard egg cartons. To give the seeds a head start, I soaked them in water until they started to swell. I put one seed in each egg cup and covered it with soil. I added enough water to cover each section and a little extra in the bottom to soak up into the cardboard cartons.

To give the sprouts a warm moist home, I put the egg carton containers in a plastic tray. The cheapest I found were cat litter pans at about $4 each on sale at Canadian Tire. Four half size egg cartons fit in each tray. Then I cut off the bottoms of gallon milk cartons. Each half egg carton fit snugly under it's own plastic "hothouse."

I started twelve Snow Peas and twelve Scarlet Runner Pole Beans with lovely red flowers and tasty pods. That's more than I need for my two 23" diameter pots, but sometimes not all of my seeds sprout. Just a little extra insurance if you know what I mean. I put the plastic tray of mini-hothouses near the sunny window of our condo. They'll stay there unattended for a week until we can return from a trip the States.

APRIL 19 UPDATE: My little hothouses were too moist. When I returned, only two of the beans had sprouted. The rest moulded. I think it would have been better to give them a little air each day or maybe less water to start with.

I bought a wrought iron trellis at Canadian Tire for $19.99 that fit inside my blue barrel planter (click the picture for a better view). For extra climbing attachments and support, I added two 1X1's and tied a string lattice. Wayne drilled holes in the side of the barrel and secured everything with wire. I transplanted my two bean plants. For the remainder, I put new seeds directly in the soil. Now all I need are a few warm sunny days between the spring showers to get them going. - Margy


  1. I love your plastic hothouses. This year I'm trying hothouses too. I made mine out of 2 liter soda bottles. Well have to compare at the end of the season and see which workes best.
    ♥ Pacy

  2. Wow, a very neat little garden. Sounds like you get a lot of production out of it as well! Up here, I haven't done much of anything yet.

    I love your hothouses. I find when I use them, though, that they tend to take wing when the Cariboo wind blows, even when I bury them fairly deeply. The temps are still going down to -7 or 8 C overnight, so I'll wait awhile before the garden becomes my first priority.

  3. I'm not sure your green beans and peas will transplant well. They really like to be planted directly into dirt, not sure why. Maybe they don't like to have their roots disturbed. Please let me know how this works for you because you may just have debunked an old wives tale...

    Cheers Margaret

  4. Pacy, you can see I had problems with my mini-hothouses. How did yours work? Do you have any tips for me?

    Margaret, old wives are often right. My two beans did transplant, but my hothouses weren't all that successful. I'll let you know which plants do better in the long run.

    Marion, anything not tied down outdoors flies away here too. I used my mini-hothouses indoors only.



We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy