Sunday, March 22, 2009

To Pea Or Not To Pea

My pea bed was finally unfrozen. Whoo hoo! Confession time. It turns out there were a couple of frozen clods left on the top right near the fence where it doesn't get very much sun. I prepared the pea bed anyway. I just shoved the little frozen bits to the side and ignored them. What a bad gardener. At least the soil was not too wet to dig. We haven't had much precipitation for the last couple of weeks and I've had a clear plastic sheet over the bed anyway that keep out what little we did. And to warm the bed which was really the point of my plastic.

If you look closely at the above photo you can see the little cracks that form over the winter on my soil. The ground freezes and thaws and heaves up over the winter. This bed had a pitiful cover crop of oats that winter killed. It also had a few vetch plants. This was where my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants lived and there really wasn't time to dig over the soil for a good cover crop. I'm thinking that next year I really should do a cover crop over the top of the soil from the nightshade crops. Just seed then cover with compost at the end of August. No digging in to disturb my tomatoes. That might get them started enough to really form some good protection for the sol over the winter.

Back to the main topic, my pea bed. To prepare the bed I raked off the dead plants from the sparse cover crop. Then I forked over the bed. I don't turn the soil. I just aerate it a bit. Then I leveled it with the rake, making sure that it was slightly sloped to the north. I usually slope my bed slightly to the south to warm the soil more, but these will hold my cool weather crops. I don't want my soil getting very warm during the summer. It will, but a slight slope helps out a bit.

Then I noticed that the soil was a bit high on the path side of my bed. My paths are usually about level with the beds on the uphill side, but since I'm sloping the dirt slightly the other way, there is a drop off to the path. Last year this was annoying. It washes flat as the summer rains wear on and doesn't hold its shape. So I went to my backyard and took one of the dead fallen trees and used it to hold up that side. I thought it looked rather nice. I had a few feet extra from the tree so I also lined the little path on the end of the bed. Now it all looks so nice and neat.

After that was done and the bed reraked flat, I added some amendments - greensand, bonemeal, limestone. I would have added some nitrogen source but currently I don't have any. If it were just peas in this bed, I wouldn't, but I will also have my lettuce and brassicas here. The peas are just going along the back of bed, all the way across. The greens will be in the front to get more sun.

I wanted to add some compost. I tried to stick my fork into it. Nope. It is still frozen solid. I'm assuming some year it will melt, but not in time to amend the bed before planting. I will just mulch with it this year. I'm sure my worms will turn it under in due time.

The last chore was to put up the supports. I have a lot of short T posts, but not many tall ones. So I typically use the short posts and extend them with maple saplings that I've cut down from my back yard. Last year's saplings seemed not to have rotted out too much so I will use those again. The maple saplings are probably 7' high though they aren't strong enough at the top to hold anything. Last year I had issues with the posts slowly falling together because of the twine tied between them. This year I put in cross bars along the top of the T posts. That ought to solve my problem.

Will the peas be planted soon? Probably. Maybe. I'm hoping. As I was working out in the garden I felt the temperature start to drop. We are getting very cold tonight, into the teens. As I write this we are getting a quick snow flurry. So the peas are not going in today. Tomorrow will barely get above freezing. Then it is one more cold night before we start to warm up again. The 7 day forecast is for warm weather to come in on Wednesday. They usually aren't very good with long range forecasts, but they can predict trends and the trend seems to be for warmer weather. I feel another whoo hoo coming on. WHOO HOO! Warmer weather. I can't wait. 50s sound so good.


  1. The beds are really looking nice, Daphne. I love the addition of the tree as an edging! My peas are planted, but we're really getting a lot of rain now, I hope they don't rot in the ground.

    I'll be pounding my T-posts on the outside of my raised bed, so they will probably end up being only 4-5 feet high and I'll have to add extensions to them. Probably 2x2 lumber to hold the tomatoes in a Florida weave.

  2. Your pea bed looks great! I bet they'll be very happy there. The soil looks good, Daphne!

  3. I second for weather in the 50's again! I keep thinking about clearing and fluffing the soil in my raised beds but keep putting it off. Where do you find green sand, is it expensive? I have never seen it before but have read about it many times. I am going to put down compost, blood meal & bone meal if I ever get to doing the digging.

    Last year I plant my peas the first week of May so I was only able to have one picking before the heat shut the plants down. The squirrels also eat almost all the seed I planted. I am going to start them in the cold frame this year to fix those crafty squirrels.

  4. Sheila, thanks

    Annie's Granny, thanks I love the tree edging too. Maybe I should do it for my other beds. It is so much neater than not having any edging. Hopefully it is warm enough for your peas to not rot. I actually could use some rain. We haven't had any appreciable precipitation since our last snow storm a couple of weeks ago and probably won't get any for another week. Which is actually kind of nice right now since it means my soil is workable even as it just thaws. It is not normal however.

    Tessa, thanks.

    Dan, I find greensand in my garden centers around here. I don't remember it being any more expensive than any other of my fertilizers and it acts as a soil conditioner too.

  5. I will have to find some then. The blood/bone meal I am putting down is 7-7-0 so the green sand would make up for the lacking potash. Do you know of an online source for it?

  6. No I always get it at a local garden center. I'd be afraid to buy it online. I like to buy it in 40lb bags so it would be expensive to ship.

  7. Is it true that when the forsythia blooms, you plant your pea seeds? That's the latest wisdom I've heard--thank goodness the forsythia is not blooming as the kids have kept me too busy to really get the pea bed ready.

    What signs tell you the peas are ready to seed?

    Oh. . .and thanks for listing my blog here. I'm very impressed with your soil. We're no-till people ourselves.

  8. Well around here the traditional pea planting date is St. Patrick's Day. I don't think the forsythia have ever bloomed by then. That is probably close to when I usually plant due to procrastination issues, but this year I wanted my peas to be ready when everyone elses started coming in. I like the idea of going by other plants' schedules. They know when the soil is right. I do know that peas won't germinate in soil that is less that 40°F (4°C), though many people wait until 45 or even 50 just to be safe.