There is much to do in the garden this week; that extra hour will come in handy.
It’s time to plant peas, radishes, spinach, and leeks in the garden.
Peas like cool weather and will be okay if a bit of snow falls after planting. Although not necessary, soaking the pea seeds overnight in water will speed their germination.
They will grow best in rich, loose soil that holds moisture.
Place the seeds two inches apart and at least one inch deep in the ground. The peas will be sweeter if the plants get full sun, but they will grow in part shade. Mulching with organic materials will help between waterings.
Keep in mind when planting that peas will need a trellis. It’s a good idea to have this in place immediately after planting; the young tendrils will find it and begin to climb after they break ground.
The support system does not have to be a fancy trellis. Tree limbs, chicken wire, or string fencing will work. Depending on the variety you plant, the framework may need to be at least four feet tall.
Varieties that will grow in West Virginia include shell peas (the kind that you eat the inside peas, not the shell) include Knight and Frosty. Cascadia and Sugar Anne are sugar snap peas, and when young and tender, the entire pod is delicious – no need to shell.
Radishes are another cool weather lover. Plant seeds one inch deep and one inch apart. Choose a sunny spot. If too shady, the plant will spend energy growing greens and not the root. Although grown primarily for the roots, tender radish greens can be eaten raw; more mature leaves will taste better when cooked.
Radishes mature quickly, some in about three weeks. Try Watermelon or Easter Basket radishes for their mild taste. Come to the Little House on a Big Hill for dinner in the spring, and it’s a fair bet young radishes served with cold butter and J Q Dickinson Salt for dipping will be the appetizer.
The cool early days of spring are also the time to plant spinach. Plant in rows, placing the seeds one inch deep and two inches apart. As they grow, the plants may need to be thinned (you can eat these young greens). Spinach does not have deep roots, so water often and mulching can help keep the soil moist.
When it’s time to harvest, pick the outer leaves. This allows the inside leaves more time to mature. But don’t wait too long to harvest. Older leaves can be bitter, and when the temperatures heat up, the plant will bolt (go to seed). Abundant Bloomsdale is a curly dark leaf variety that will mature in about 50 days.
Plant spinach and radishes every week throughout the spring to keep a continuous crop available. Spinach, radishes, and peas can also be planted in the fall, approximately six weeks before the first frost.
If you grow leeks or parsnips, it is time to add those to your outside garden. Inside, go ahead, start tomato and pepper seeds. This will give your plants time to grow before transferring to the garden after the threat of frost is gone. If you need a refresher on starting seeds, check the archives of Good to Grow or visit www.gardeninginpearls.com for a previous article on seed starting.
As if all of this early spring planting and springing forward with daylight saving time is not enough to keep you busy, I hope you find time to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on the 17th and the Full Worm Moon the next day. All work and no celebrating makes for an unhappy gardener.