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Time to Plant Peas, Potatoes and Onions

March 17 is the traditional time to plant peas, potatoes, and onions.
I’m determined to have a great garden this year so I had manure and leaves turned into the raised beds today.  Here are tips to getting started!

peaseeds

Peas are a cool-season crop, now coming in three separate varieties to suit your garden and cooking needs. They are: (sweet pea, inedible pod) and snow peas (edible flat pod with small peas inside) and snap peas (edible pod with full-size peas). They are easy to grow, but with a very limited growing season. Furthermore, they do not stay fresh long after harvest, so enjoy them while you can!

plantingpeasPlanting Peas

  • To get the best head start, turn over your pea planting beds in the fall, add manure to the soil, and mulch well.
  • As with other legumes, pea roots will fix nitrogen in the soil, making it available for other plants.
  • Peas will appreciate a good sprinkling of wood ashes to the soil before planting.
  • Sow seeds outdoors 4 to 6 weeks before last spring frost, when soil temperatures reach 45 degrees F.
  • Plant 1 inch deep (deeper if soil is dry) and 2 inches apart.
  • Get them in the ground while the soil is still cool but do not have them sit too long in wet soil. It’s a delicate balance of proper timing and weather conditions. For soil that stays wet longer, invest in raised beds.
  • A blanket of snow won’t hurt emerging pea plants, but several days with temperatures in the teens could. Be prepared to plant again.
  • Peas are best grown in temperatures below 70 degrees F.

Care of Pea Plants

  • Make sure that you have well-drained, humus-rich soil.
  • Poke in any seeds that wash out. (A chopstick is an ideal tool for this.)
  • Be sure, too, that you don’t fertilize the soil too much. Peas are especially sensitive to too much nitrogen, but they may like a little bonemeal, for the phosphorus content.
  • Though adding compost or manure to the soil won’t hurt, peas don’t need heavy doses of fertilizer. They like phosphorus and potassium.
  • Water sparsely unless the plants are wilting. Do not let plants dry out, or no pods will be produced.
  • For tall and vine varieties, establish poles or a trellis at time of planting.
  • Do not hoe around plants to avoid disturbing fragile roots.
  • It’s best to rotate pea crops every year or two to avoid a buildup of soil-borne diseases.

plantingpotatoes_lPlanting Potatoes

  • Plant seed potatoes (pieces of whole potato or a small whole potato, with at least 2 eyes per piece).
  • If you are cutting up potato pieces for planting, do so a 1-2 days ahead of time. This will give them the chance to form a protective layer, both for moisture retention and rot resistance.
  • Old Timers say Good Friday or under the full moon is the best time to plant root crops.  Potatoes can be planted as soon as soil can be worked, but be aware that some crops could be ruined by a frost.
  • Spread and mix in rotted manure or organic compost in the bottom of the trench before planting.
  • Plant seed potatoes one foot apart in a 4-inch deep trench, eye side up.
  • Practice yearly crop rotation.

Care of Potatoes

  • Potatoes thrive in well-drained, loose soil.
  • Potatoes need consistent moisture, so water regularly when tubers start to form.
  • Hilling should be done before the potato plants bloom, when the plant is about 6 inches tall. Hoe the dirt up around the base of the plant in order to cover the root as well as to support the plant. Bury them in loose soil. The idea is to keep the potato from getting sunburned, in which case they turn green and will taste bitter.
  • You will need to hill potatoes every couple of weeks to protect your crop.

Planting Onions

Candy, yellow, red, and white onion sets are now in the store.
Candy onion plants, yellow, red, and white onion sets are now in the store.  Get started now!

Onions are a cold season crop, easy to grow because of their hardiness. We recommend using onion sets, which can be planted without worry of frost damage and have a higher success rate than direct seed or transplants.

  • Till in aged manure or fertilizer the fall before planting.
  • Start seeds indoors about 6 weeks before transplanting. Move transplants into the garden as soon as the ground can be worked.
  • Plant the transplants about three inches apart.
  • Plant sets directly outdoors mid March and early April. Make sure temperature doesn’t go below 20 degrees F.
  • When planting onion sets, don’t bury them completely under the soil; if more than the bottom third of the bulb is underground, growth can be restricted. Set five inches apart.

Care

  • Fertilize when bulbs begin to swell, and again when plants are one foot tall
  • Make sure soil is well-drained. Mulch will help retain moisture and stifle weeds.

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