Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Welcome Spring with Cold-Weather Crops

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Welcome Spring with Cold-Weather Crops

Article excerpt

When I was growing up, my mother would march us out on Memorial Day to weed the garden, turn it over and plant tomatoes, peppers and other plants that love warm weather. It was my grandmother, though, who taught me there are lots of other things that can be planted as soon as the soil is ready. She said it was tradition for gardeners to start their peas on St. Patrick's Day.

Every year that I've had a garden, I've planted my peas on the holiday but not always in the ground. Sometimes there is 12 inches of snow or the soil is too wet to be worked. If the dirt sticks to the shovel when preparing the garden, it's too wet to plant. Turning over the garden when it's not ready will destroy the soil structure, leaving clods that will become hard as a rock when things warm up.

Even though I always plant my first crop on St. Patrick's Day, it's always a gamble, and I'll continue to plant peas over the next couple of weeks. Nine times out of 10 the peas will sprout, but every once in a while the weather gets cold and prevents germination.

I'm not turning the soil over this early in the season. I'm just buying a couple of bags of compost at the nursery, dumping it on a garden bed and then planting.

My favorite pea over the years has been 'Oregon Sugar Pod II.' It's a reliable and tasty snow pea that can be snacked on in the spring garden. I saw a couple of others this year in the catalogs, and I'll plant them, too. 'Golden Sweet Edible Pod' is a yellow snow pea from India that is best picked small. Like most peas, it needs some type of support. 'Blauschokker' might not have the greatest name, but these purple podded shelling peas are beautiful in pictures. The peas themselves are lime green, making a colorful contrast with the pods.

Before planting any peas in the cold soil, they should be prepared with an overnight soaking in water. The seeds will swell to three times their size and are primed for germination. A little sun, a few 50-degree days and they will emerge. Once they do, there's nothing Mother Nature can do to stop them. If it does turn cold, a floating row cover of spun bound translucent fabric can be laid over the bed to warm the soil and underground seeds. …

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