Tuesday, April 15, 2014

HOW to Start Gardening Earlier....AND How I harvested my own bean seeds last year!

I have had cabin fever really bad this year!  I couldn’t wait to start my garden and start harvesting veggies! Soooo...last month, I planted 3 pots of string beans, 2 sunflowers, and 3 pots of tomatoes and have had them in my window sill and next to the slider door.  Sadly, the kids have already damaged the tomatoes beyond repair, along with one of the sunflower plants…and I will have to start again.  HOWEVER, my string beans are doing remarkably well.

The beans I used to plant were harvested from last year’s string bean crop.  I didn’t have to go out and buy seeds!  I learned this trick from an amazing book called, “The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency used by the Mormon Pioneers” by Caleb Warnock. 
According to Mr. Warnock, there are several types of open pollinating plants that you can save your own seed from year after year.  (String beans, potatoes, and lettuce)  Last year, I followed his suggestion of leaving one of my vines untouched and saved the seeds for the next year’s crop.  I was skeptical…but wanted to give it a try.  I let one vine grow beans until they turned a  brown/yellow crunchy type and harvested the dry beans.  I put them into a paper envelope and stored them in a sealed mason jar inside my refrigerator until I couldn’t take the suspense anymore.  Guess what?  They came up!! 
I have 6 successful bean plants in my kitchen that I am looking forward to planting outside when the temperatures warm up enough!

After seeing the 6 beans come up successfully, I decided to give another one of his methods a try…since he gardens YEAR ROUND.  (I loved his book so much; I bought another one of his called, “Backyard Winter Gardening”.)   I took an old GIANT Brita type container, cut off the top, and created what he calls “Cloche”. 
Cloches have been around since approximately 1623 (and they are also called “bell glasses”)…They are used “to help tender plants from the cold and wet during the worst period of the year.”  Originally Cloches were made of glass…but I was scared my kids would break the glass in my SMALL backyard…so I went the 'modern version' with a more durable plastic—thus the GIANT Brita type plastic jar.  I first planted them outside in the beginning of April.  I was so excited to see plants come up.  After a week, I checked them every day.  I was disappointed because they didn’t come up.  BUT…I was persistent and kept watering every couple of days.  I guess being outside in the colder air they just needed a little more time.  Last week, one plant popped up.  I was thrilled…. I became even more thrilled when a 2nd popped up several days later.  The cloche method officially works!! 
Now, I just need to find another FREE giant water bottle to create more little greenhouse domes!  I want to have the situation he describes…a garden producing in its prime when everyone else is starting to plant!

Give a “Cloche” a try….You’ll have to be patient…but you won’t be sorry!

Happy Pinching Pennies…

P.S.   Just remember when the plant comes up you have to be aware of temperatures.  I have to make sure my plants don't "cook" during the day, by uncovering them.  I put the cloche back on when the sun looks like it is thinking about going down.  (Right now, that is about 5 p.m., but I am sure it will get later as the day lengthens.)