Posts tagged ‘peas’

March 8, 2011

Planting Peas

by Kate

End of March

Forgotten Pea Trellis, February

It has taken all my will power not to plant the peas in the last few days. After a week when temperatures rose into the sixties and a succession of blue sky days and bright sun, it is almost impossible to hold back.  The sap has stopped dripping into the buckets. The Farmer’s Almanac reads “Chipmunks are waking up and coming out of their burrows.” For a moment, listening to the cry of returning geese overhead, the cacophony of robins, the love calls of cardinals, and even the discovery of the remains of an egg ( surely from one of last year’s broods), I am tempted to think “Tomorrow I plant!”

It is a precious moment when winter starts to dwindle in fits and starts, and spring begins to gain confidence as the days get longer, first slowly, then faster, and it is finally time to get my hands back in the soil, smooth out the lumps, cast off the winter coverings, and put peas in the ground.  It is like the first stirrings of excitement when I begin a new painting:  the markings of the design, the early splashes of paint, the careful building of layers, all herald something new.  With plants, so much is beyond our control, and yet, at this time of year, it is all about planning and potential.

 

Pea pods and blooms

The raised beds between the house and studio where I paint every day are moist, the heavy cold water of melted snow drained away. Covered with the leaves and flecks of detritus from winter blows and bits of straw mulch from last year, the tips of garlic plants are peeping out of the soil. Sorrel, with its red-tipped green tinge is emerging, iris leaves tentatively poke through the leaf mulch, and some of the thymes that line the path have new tiny green leaves. The frothy leaves of giant poppies are unfolding.

Peas in mid May

To look at these naked beds, brown, grey—clean slates—is to imagine them planted with tidy rows of green and color. Every year, I plant differently, rotating crops, changing the angles of  rows, creating miniature knot gardens from time to time, trying new spots for a plant given the shade that develops when the changing angle of the sun casts tree shadows across the beds. Each spring means a new design, a fresh beginning on a structure sunk into the ground fifteen years ago, on top of what was driveway. Each spring brings the promise of fresh food grown on my own little plot of land, and in a world that seems pretty crazy and chaotic, that feels reassuring.

Mine is an in-town garden.  The house, which dates back to the 1870’s, covers most of the .3 acres we own.  The rest is planted, with six raised beds, and a couple of borders that contain perennials, and an herb garden.  Arborvitae hedges line the periphery, and a crab tree that in 1996 was not much taller than my husband, now towers above the back of the house. Rabbits have found us, even a wood chuck who has seventeen holes in  the meadow across the street (my neighbor Jane counted them) ventures over when we grow broccoli and brussel sprouts, but most people don’t know the garden is here, tucked in behind a sheltering wall,  a little oasis in the middle of town. In fact, it is so sheltered  I can grow things some years that can’t be grown elsewhere in Addison County, which ought to mean the peas can go in the ground soon.

Peas, early June

At this time every year, I have big plans. Even though the air is still fresh and warmer, we  light a fire in the wood stove. There’s the wall of sweet peas I am planning, whose flowers will perfume the air when I step outside come summer for breaks from the paint fumes.  There will be six varieties of eggplant, which I plan not only to eat, but to paint, using the most beautiful ones in a still life. Artichokes, will be planted in the herb garden, not for the fruit, but for the flowers so purple they beg to be painted, along with their silvery, spiky leaves.  Tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, leeks, garlics and greens – all will be planted for both their beauty and because we like to eat them.

I pick up the telephone and call my friend Abi who has a soil thermometer.  It is more fun to call her repeatedly over a season to ask for the temperature of her soil than it is to buy my own thermometer. This way we chat about what we are planting, how it is going, what is different this year from last, and share part of the excitement of another growing season. I add a couple of degrees onto her numbers since my patch is south facing and there are no breezes.

“Soil Thermometer? I haven’t even thought about it yet — though Bill did go outside and plant some stuff in the cold frames yesterday.”

Cold Frames. That could be the key for this need I have right now to dig. The one time I built a cold frame, I moved too fast and situated it below a south-facing roof. When the inevitable early April snow came, it slid off the roof and smashed the glass.  We have found another south facing spot under a gable, and I could build a new cold frame in the next few days.

I pull out my grow lights and analyze my seed packets. It is not too soon to plant the six varieties of eggplant, leeks, perhaps a couple of tomato varieties. I am not starting any brassica this year to insure that the wood chuck will stay away. The labels are neat, with date planted, seed producer noted.  I leave the trays in the vicinity of the woodstove, see that the rain outside is starting to look like snow, and realize it would be okay if the sap run went longer for my friends who make maple syrup.  The peas can wait another week or two.

Advertisements