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Coming Home to Food

Coming Home to Food

Coming Home to Food

I spent last week in the Adirondacks, tucked away in Cabin 3 at a women’s writing retreat. There’s always something to learn, and learn I did. A lot. I don’t have Pam and Deb giving me ideas on what words to write in the next five, ten, 25 minutes so I have to create or find my own prompts. There isn’t anyone to cook three meals a day for me now. But then there’s the garden. The garden had a to-do list waiting for me when I pulled in the drive at almost ten o’clock Friday night. Coming home to food we’re growing re-grounds me.

Walking through the yard, garden and high tunnel early this morning was a nice way to slide back into homesteading. The raspberries were ripening when I left. I picked two and a half quarts Saturday morning before being stung by a yellow jacket and quitting for the day, and today there are three or four or more quarts waiting to be picked. I picked one cucumber, sprinkled it with sea salt and promptly devoured the whole thing. I pruned most of the cucumber vines Saturday morning but more are waiting for me. Coming home to food re-energizes me. I’m ready to get back to the garden today.

So Much Food!

The zucchini will have to wait until Tuesday; growing another inch or two will give us more to eat in Tuesday night’s supper. The peas, well they’re not waiting. I’ll have to pick them today. I’m over peas, thank you very much. I’ll pick them one more time, throw down some lime, climb up on the tractor, and rototill the weedy, pea viney mess into the soil like I planned to do last week. Next week I’ll plant the fall peas…or not. I’m not sure I want to deal with more weeds this year.

Come for a walk around the homestead with me. We’ll start outside the high tunnel.

Watching Food Grow

July in the High Tunnel

The high tunnel is my favorite garden. It provides food year round when I keep it planted for winter, as I’ll do this year. We’re about to tear apart a raised bed that isn’t raised anymore, rebuild it and fill it with good soil that we’ll amend in the process. Seems like we grow as much food in 1,000 square feet as we do in the wide open garden. I’m experimenting this year. Corn in the high tunnel? It’s growing, and so I think it will work.

How to Plant Peas

How to Plant Peas

How to Plant Peas

Early spring? No, winter’s back. Wait, it’s gone again and it feels like spring. Is it time to plant peas? No…yes…hang on… Will the ground finishing thawing or will it freeze solid again? I’ve been playing the wait-and-see game for three weeks. On April 19, confident the ground won’t freeze again and while the soil is miraculously dry enough to not just turn over with a small rototiller but to drive the tractor on, I tilled a large part of the garden, and I planted the peas. This is the earliest I’ve ever planted peas. Do you know how to plant peas? It’s easy.

how to plant peas, backyard garden, snow peas, snap peas, shell peas, English peas

Peas are simple to plant. As always, amend the soil. If you have the results of a soil test and know what your soil needs that should already be done. If not, do it now. I like to add compost to the soil and turn it in before I plant.

Things you should know about how to plant peas

  • Peas don’t need high fertility so you don’t need to give them the very best spot in your garden.
  • Peas like cool soil. You’ll probably see “as soon as the ground can be worked” on the package of seeds. This means as soon as the soil is dry enough to not form a mud ball when you squeeze it in your hand or not drip water it’s ready to be worked.
  • Well-drained sandy loam is the best soil for peas, and they like a pH of 6 to 7.5 which is average for the backyard and homesteader garden.
  • You can plant peas when the ground is ready even if it’s there’s a chance of snow in the forecast.
  • Plant peas a month before your last average frost date. If you don’t know when your area usually has it’s last frost of spring you can ask your neighbors or cooperative extension.

how to plant peas, snow peas, snap peas, shell peas

And now, how to plant peas

  1. In freshly turned, airy soil, make a one-inch deep groove in the soil. Plant the seeds two inches apart. If you’re making a groove in the soil without tilling first, plant them three-quarters inch deep. The loose airy soil will settle more than soil disturbed with a hoe.
  2. Cover the seeds with soil and tamp it down with the hoe.
  3. If the soil is dry, water it.
  4. Poke in any seeds the water pushed out or you missed.
  5. If you’ve planted varieties that are more than 18″ tall you should provide support. It can be as simple as wooden stakes five feet apart and woven with jute or as strong as cattle or hog panels. Weave the plants that don’t grab the support, then tuck in tendrils and shoots that don’t behave. Support makes picking easier, keeps slugs off the pods, and helps prevent mold.

I’m growing three varieties this year. Oregon Giant Snow Pea is my favorite snow variety. They’re good even if I miss peak by a few days because the tiny baby peas aren’t starchy. Oregon Giant Snow Pea needs 60 days to maturity. Start counting 60 days when you see the first true leaves. The first “leaves” up are cotyledons, sort of the Army that goes ahead to see what’s up there above soil level.

I also planted Early Frost Shell Pea, another 60 day variety. They’ll be shelled, blanched and frozen. In early July I’ll plant Cascadia Snap Pea for a fall crop.

What’s the difference between snow peas, snap peas and shell peas?

Well I’m glad you asked. Snow peas are an edible pod pea. They’re small pea pods you find in stir fry and Chinese food. You pick them before the peas develop so the pod is tender. Snap peas are eaten whole, shell (pod) and all. They’re tender if you pick them on time. Shell peas have to be shelled because the pod is tough and stringy. Shells go into the composter, a hole in the soil, or the composting worm bin.

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So there you go. Now you know how to plant peas, or maybe you knew and learned a helpful tip. Do you have a question or tip to share? Comments are open (please don’t make me beg for comments as I like to pretend I have dignity).

If you’re unfamiliar with the USDA Hardiness Zones you can read more about them on their page.