Dear BCG Gardeners:
Some of you have been asking, when do I plant my peas and spinach? Well, the answer is that you can probably start sometime around now, if you haven’t done so already (it’s been so cold that I haven’t wanted to be in my garden, but apparently others haven’t minded the cold so much–the owner as Shelley’s Garden Center said that some people have been coming in and saying that their peas are up.) But I’m going to plant peas in the next few days.
I’ve included a link to a website from Nancy DeBrule Clemente at Natureworks:
http://www.naturework.com/Handouts/Vegetable_crop_timing.pdf in which she makes suggestions as to when to plant certain crops. For germination there are basically two things to concern yourself with: air temperature and ground temperature. I was afraid before now to plant my peas because the air temperature at night (20’s) was so cold that I figured the ground temperature wasn’t very warm either (it was around 40 degrees a couple inches down a few days ago). Colder ground temperatures translate into longer germination times, and peas sometimes rot if they stay too long in wet soil before germinating, hence my hesitation in planting. Now that we are looking at warmer daytime AND nighttime temperatures, the ground temperature should gradually rise, thereby speeding the rate of germination of the cold temperature crops. One way to increase soil temperatures is to spread black plastic over the area you are going to plant in a few days before planting–the ground under the plastic will warm more quickly than it would otherwise (I was to a lecture on vegetable gardening that Nancy gave a few years ago–she mentioned that she put black plastic down to heat up the soil before planting her peas). It is not absolutely necessary to do this; we didn’t last spring in SWF, just planted the peas and spinach directly into the soil on April 6 (but it was a warm spring, so the soil was already moderately warm) and had fantastic germination.
Several of the early spring crops that Nancy mentions in her “Vegetable crop timing” article benefit from soaking in tepid water (to aid germination) before planting–peas, swiss chard, and spinach would all benefit from soaking 2 to 4 hours before planting (I’ve also soaked the swiss chard and spinach overnight, but peas can get mushy if they soak too long). At this point I’d start with peas (to plant by seed). You can also try arugula, spinach, swiss chard, radishes and lettuces–they may germinate, they may not, depending on how the weather treats us. Generally, I plant and if it works out, fine, and if it doesn’t I plant again in a couple of weeks if no germination occurred–always a guessing game and seeds are relatively cheap.
I would like to encourage everyone to keep a garden journal–just jot down when you planted seeds, whether they germinated or not and give a rough idea of the outdoor temperatures (and soil temperature, if you measure it–I have a compost thermometer that I use to measure soil temp). Keeping a garden journal over the years will help you develop your own guidelines for when you can expect to plant and reasonably expect germination in certain crops.
Later this month I’ll be getting out the detailed list of seedlings that we are using from our Vaiuso fundraiser for BCG. We’ll have marigolds, basil, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. You’ll be able to pick up your seedlings at my house in the afternoon of May 13, or at BCG the morning of May 14. Leftover seedlings will go to the Willoughby Wallace plant sale, which benefits both us and the library. More details to follow.
If you have questions, feel free to contact me at email@example.com (Connie has the current BCG membership list, so sends out the emails, but you can send questions directly to me).
Yours in organically gardening,