Peas for St. Patrick’s Day

Image: Peasl Photo source: Jessica Ruscello, UnsplashIn Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is the traditional day to plant peas in a spring garden. In the United States the timing can vary somewhat from zone to zone, but March 17th still works well as a guide for starting peas for most areas. And what a perfect way to bring your garden a bit of the “luck of the Irish” by planting something green!

Why you should grow peas.

Did you know peas have been cultivated by humans for anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 years? Peas are an easy, rewarding crop for spring, and are a great way to fix nitrogen in the soil for your summer plants. As an early spring crop they can be out of the ground by June, leaving time for a warm weather crop to succeed them.

Selecting a variety.

Image of peas in a basket

Dried Shelling Peas are typically used for soups or stews, and fresh shelled immature peas are good lightly steamed or boiled. Their pod is too fibrous to be edible, and the peas themselves must be removed from the shells, hence their name. Bush Shelling peas grow in a compact bush form, while the more common Vine Shelling peas, which grow on vines that require staking or trellising but which are generally more productive than bush varieties.

Snap Peas are a more recently developed edible-podded pea, this one originated in America. The pod is thicker and more succulent than that of the Snow Pea, and less fibrous than standard Shelling Peas. These are now one of the most popular types of pea, because there is no work in shelling and very little waste.

Snow Peas have thin crisp pods that are nearly translucent and bright green, with tiny seeds. The whole pod is edible and quite sweet when picked at the right time. The name may come from the whitish tint reflected from the pods, or because of their tendency to grow at the end of winter, just before the last spring freeze. As their name suggests, they can be covered with snow during these times, but still keep growing.

When to plant.

In moderate climates, you can sow directly into your garden bed, while in colder climates you may need to start them indoors. Fortunately, peas do well in containers, so you may not even need to transplant them!

In warmer climates, you may have already started your peas back in January or February, but you can still continue to sow new seeds for a second harvest before the warm days of summer.

Getting started.

The best soil for peas is a loose well-drained loam. Peas don’t need a lot of nitrogen, as they can obtain their own. In fact, if nitrogen is too easily available they won’t bother to fix any. Peas do need phosphorus (colloidal phosphate) and potassium (wood ashes), as well as calcium and magnesium (use dolomitic limestone).

If the soil is compacted double digging is beneficial. If it is poorly drained, use raised beds, especially for early plantings, as they don’t like wet soil. In very poor soils it may pay to plant your peas in trenches, filled with a mixture of soil and compost.

If you’re growing a vining variety, you will need to supply a trellis or poles for the plants to grow along.

Five herbs perfect for indoor growing

Spring has yet to arrive in many parts of the country, and we’re pretty sure a lot of you gardeners are getting a bit of cabin fever. One cure for the late-winter gardening blues is to start an indoor herb garden.

We’ve come up with a list of some of our favorite herbs to grow indoors, and some tips for getting started. Note: it’s pretty easy, so it’s perfect for beginner gardeners too!

1. Chives
Chives are in the allium family, making them a close cousin to onions and garlic. But unlike their stronger cousins chives have a delicate flavor perfect for adding a light garnish for eggs or potatoes.

These attractive and compact plants are super low maintenance. They can be grown from seed, but it’s easier to use starts. To harvest, just trim a few of the thin, round leaves. 

2. Mint
Mint is a wonderful addition to tea and other refreshing beverages. It’s also a delicious garnish for many deserts. But did you know you can also include it in salads?

Mint is easy to grow, and with care can thrive in an indoor herb garden. If you want to move it outdoors, be sure to keep it in a pot as mint is extremely invasive and will take over your garden.

3. Oregano
This aromatic perennial is essential to Italian and Greek cooking. Fresh oregano can be used immediately in the kitchen, chopped into sauces or added to meat dishes.

Oregano is a hearty herb that is quite easy to grow. Like other herbs, it likes well-drained soil. Compared to other herbs, though, it can tolerate some dryness.

4. Rosemary
Evergreen rosemary grows into a deliciously scented shrub whose needle-like, gray green leaves are a classic aromatic seasoning for Mediterranean dishes, as well as chicken, lamb, and bread.

In a pot, it will remain small and easy to cut and come again while retaining its lovely shape.

5. Thyme
Intensely aromatic, thyme is indispensable in a kitchen herb garden as it adds a delicate peppery-lemon flavor when added to soups, casseroles, pizzas, and breads.

Thyme is an easy herb to grow, and requires little care. It needs full sun and well-drained soil. It doesn’t like having “wet feet” and will develop root rot if the soil stays moist for too long.

Getting started: 

Selecting a location:
The best way to grow herbs is to place them on a sunny windowsill or wherever gets the most daylight. A minimum of four hours of sunlight per day is ideal.

Planting Tips:
Starting from seed may be a bit of a challenge, so it’s usually best to buy plant starts or get a cutting from an established plant.

When choosing a plant, make sure you get one small enough for your pot. Remember, they’ll grow! Four inch pots are perfect for windowsills.

Put each herb in its own pot. Garden soil can often contain unwanted pests, so it’s better to use fresh, quality potting soil.

Growing Tips:
Leaves may drop in the first few weeks. The herbs are adjusting to a new environment and with care they will begin to thrive.

Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. It should feel slightly damp when you poke your finger into it about 1 cm.

Be patient. Some herbs, like rosemary, can have difficulty adjusting indoors.

Dealing with pests:
If your indoor herbs attract aphids or spider mites, don’t fret. An easy treatment is to cover the soil surface and dip the plant upside down in a container of insecticidal soap and water. If persistent, you can do this once a week until the pests are gone.