There’s something special about maintaining a gardening tradition. Most garden customs, even if they are steeped in legend, have a good reason for the practice. Maybe your grandmother planted flowers around her vegetables. Flowers planted in with the vegetables will attract bees to ensure good pollination and beneficial insects to help control the pests.
So too is the planting of peas on St Patrick’s Day, which is said to bring luck to the seasons harvest.
For many of us, trying to plant peas on March 17th can prove challenging! Spring may only be a few days away, but often the ground is covered with snow or is too muddy to plant. There is a certain Wethersfield Connecticut seedsman that I know, who has always found a way to plant some peas in his garden on this day, even if he has to use the ‘melt the snow with warm water’ method! Although I’m sure part of the reason he continues this practice is to have bragging rights to the first peas of the season. He always has fresh peas before me!
I recently read an article that claimed peas are difficult to grow. I have never found that to be the case at all. In fact, it’s one of the seeds I recommend to plant with children. Once established, the young vines can grow 4” in one night! A fun activity is to measure a vine before bed and then again, the following morning. Did you know that peas are one of the few vegetables that you can eat every part of the plant? The stems, flowers, pods and seeds are all edible (and tasty) and in many cultures considered a delicacy. Check out all our peas choices.
Peas need 60-75 days from when the seeds germinate (not from when you plant the seed) before they will produce their first pod. But by July the weather can become too hot and the vines will burn up and stop producing any pods. Counting back, that leaves the month of June to enjoy a harvest. Hence the ‘need’ to plant in the middle of March so the seeds will germinate as soon as the soil is warm enough.
Shelling peas have seed that is hardier (will withstand cold, wet soil better) than edible pod peas so if you must plant some peas out in the garden today, you might want to choose one of the shelling types. Scratch the surface of the soil in your garden, snug the peas into the soil and cover with about 1” of compost. This is the one time I recommend purchasing a bag of compost from the garden center; it’s warm, dry and easy to apply. Water the area well. Covering the area with clear plastic to warm the soil can hasten germination. Keep watch, and make sure to remove the plastic or support it up off the plants as soon as sprouts appear or they can overheat or sunburn.
The second option is to ‘pre-sprout’ your pea seeds in damp paper towels, covered in plastic wrap. When the seeds sprout (in less than a week) plant them in Cow Pots and allow them to grow a few days until the weather is warmer. Make sure you harden-off the plants before planting them, Cow Pot and all, into the garden. Pea plants can withstand cold temperatures, even a light snow and still produce loads of pods to harvest in June. Snap peas seeds need a little warmer soil to germinate and can rot in the ground if it’s too cold. Wait until the soil starts to warm up before planting the seed directly in the garden or plant them in Cow Pots now, and plant them in the garden in April, Cow Pot and all!
The third option is to enjoy your first planting of peas as pea shoot micro-greens right on your windowsill! Check out how easy this is with our article on Microgreens.