Maybe it’s our need for color after weeks of white snow, or the association with the luck of the green, or that peas love cool temperatures, but somewhere planting peas became a tradition on St Patrick’s Day. For New England, that can be a challenge some years. There is a certain Mr. Hart that insists on planting his peas on March 17th which I’m sure is just to prove he can have fresh garden peas weeks before me (which he always does). This year he may be using the hot water trick or an ice auger to put those seeds into the ground here in Connecticut!
So yes, you can “plant” your peas on St. Patrick’s Day (or there about), no matter what the temperature is. Pea seeds are relatively hardy, which means they will survive very cold soil and air temperatures. But they will not germinate until the soil reaches 40-45 degrees. If you want to try the method Mr. Hart does, you have to have a plan. Make sure the area you want the peas to grow is clear and free of last year’s garden debris. If the soil is frozen solid, heat a kettle of water, and pour the water over the soil where your early row of peas is to grow. Because hot water can destroy soil beneficials, only do this to the area where the soil needs to be unfrozen. Allow the soil to cool and absorb the water. If you’re going to wait a day or two, cover the soil with black plastic which will absorb the sun’s heat and warm the soil until you plant. The best peas to plant in very cold soil are English Garden type peas (those that you shell). Cover the peas with soil according to the directions on the package. You can use purchased bagged garden soil for this if the rest of your garden is still frozen solid. The soil should be moist; water when needed. You will not see any sprouts until the soil is warm enough to support growth, but those seeds are ready to pop as soon as Mother Nature gives them the go-ahead! If you decide to give this a try, please send us your photos! Will any of our customers have fresh peas before Charlie Hart this year?
For those of us who do not want to shovel snow off the garden or borrow an auger from an ice fishing friend to plant our peas, planning is still a good idea. Pea vines do not like the heat and their seeds need to be in the ground long before the soil feels warm to the touch. For me, it’s as soon as the soil can be worked and no longer containing frozen crystals nor muddy. This year I’m hoping for the end of March. There are lots of types to try – bush or tall vines, shelling, snow or edible pod. My favorite is old fashion Sugar Snap, a tall vine that bears sweet plump fleshy pods with full peas for weeks. They are so good right off the vine, our family has never had enough of the pods make it out of the garden and into the kitchen for dinner! Grazing through the garden . . . the easiest way to get your kids to love veggies.Happy Planting, Sandy