Lessons from broad bean seedlings


So…yesterday we experienced a near-small-disaster with our newly transplanted broad beans which quickly became a good addition to our mental list of ‘lessons learned’. Despite having a few years of gardening experience behind us now, we’re still very much novices in many ways and the lessons we learn by doing this pretty much come daily.

About a month and a half ago, I planted broad bean seeds in trays indoors. They’re a cold-hardy, early plant whose seeds can be planted directly in the soil as soon as it can be worked, but remembering my major slug problems last year, I decided to start them indoors and transplant them in the garden once they were at a large enough size that I figured they’d be safe from slugs completely taking them down (applying lessons learned from last year! :).

I transplanted the broad bean seedlings into their designated garden bed on Sunday. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was SO happy to see them in their neat little rows – our first crop in the garden besides the fall-planted garlic! However, as I stumbled into bed Sunday night, with the wonderfully heavy feeling that comes from two glasses of red wine after a long day of outdoor work, I checked the weather app on my phone and saw that temperatures were expected to drop to -1. Uh oh. Would our young little transplants survive that? Would frost kill them, especially since they were in that vulnerable state of being transferred from the warm greenhouse to the outdoor elements? I mumbled something about it to Chris who was working on his computer and he suggested that we go outside and surround them with a solid mulching of straw for some protection. It was late. And dark. And I was seconds away from falling asleep, so although my mind said, ‘Yes! This is what gardening is about! Get up, put on warm clothes and go out and give those plants some protection!’, my body said, ‘I’m tiiiiired.’ and drifted off to sleep. Since Chris didn’t hear any words of confirmation from me, he continued on with his work, and we woke up yesterday morning to cold temperatures and frost on the ground, and for myself, a pit of dread and regret in my stomach.

As soon as it was light enough to see, I raced out to our bean plants and discovered them frost-covered and bent over like weary little travellers. They didn’t look like complete toast though, so I channelled positive thoughts, gave them a better-late-than-never bedding of straw, and raced off to have breakfast before having to leave for my permaculture class in Richmond for the day. Over breakfast, Chris and I commiserated glumly that we hadn’t been as careful or thoughtful as we should have been (and that wine drinking should be given up entirely – his opinion, not mine ;).

Thankfully, when I returned home last night from my day in Richmond, the broad beans had perked back up and were looking really fantastic in their bed of straw (yay!). One or two of them looked like they might be goners, but having just gone out there this morning (to snap these photos), even the sad ones are now perky again. Phew!

Lessons learned from our little broad bean adventure? Research the weather and prepare for it by either postponing the planting or by adding some protection of mulch and/ or cloches; and enjoy your wine, but never so much that you won’t be able to pull yourself out of bed to rescue endangered plants.