Peas on St. Patrick’s Day…?
As most long-time readers know I’m famous for planting peas in the garden on St. Patrick’s Day. Peas, of course, are a cool weather crop. They are also the first veggie to be planted directly in the garden. While St. Patrick’s Day, that is, March 17th can still be miserably wintry here in New England, peas can be planted when the soil is workable in late winter early spring. With the 70ºF weather in late February the soil thawed out nicely and I thought that St. Patrick peas would be no problem for 2018. However, with the regular series of Nor’easters in March to date the ground here at Hunny-Bunny is covered by an 8 inch layer of snow. I say 8 inches of snow but it has been as much as 25 to 26 inches directly after each storm. The subsequent above freezing days and below freezing nights melts and packs the snow daily so I’d be more correct to call this snow-cover 8 inches of ice-cover.
However, while Ol’ Man Winter toys with us, the soil beneath this polar layer ranges in temperature between 40 to 45 degrees, if a total southern exposure it may be higher still. So feasibly it is possible to plant peas on St. Patrick’s but any new growth would be doomed in the ice-pack above. So here I sit chomping at the bit to officially plant my 2018 garden anxiously awaiting melt off. I do not sit idle, mind you, but have taken advantage of February and March weather to get a jump on my homestead chores.
During the warm weather, I was able to lime and turn the chicken yard, which after a fall and winter’s worth of droppings was getting pretty rank. Now the soil is sweet-smelling, fluffy and smooth allowing, when the snow clears, the hens to dust themselves and form small divots in which to bask in the afternoon sun. I also put a new layer of pine shavings in the hen house, as well as, fresh hay from the feed store.
Back at the greenhouse, I’ve purchased the ingredients for seed starting and have actually started my herbs from seed. Next week I will start my vegetable seedlings. FYI, the ingredients for seed starter consist of: vermiculite, peat moss, shredded coconut bark and play sand. Many “experts” recommend mixing this together and setting in the oven at low temps for one hour to kill any bacteria and other little nasties, but in my experience this is quite unnecessary, especially considering all the chores that need to be done at this season.
In addition, to the above plantings I’ve also taken cuttings of my blueberries to start new plants for the spring. I’ll reveal a little known secret here about rooting plant cuttings. Weeping willow trees have copious amounts of salicylic acid, (yes, Aspirin) which is the main component of many commercial rooting mixtures. You can make your own rooting compound by soaking twigs and stems from a weeping willow in warm water for two days, while soaking your other cuttings, in my case, blueberries, in the same container. This will allow them to form root hairs which can then be planted directly in the ground. Another FYI, all rooting compounds are not the same. In reading the containers you will note that many are not meant for edible crops. The weeping willow method is the safest, easiest and cheapest way to go.
I’ve also replaced my fluorescent shop lights with LED’s. This allows the closer contact of the lights to the newly emerging seedlings and should cut down on spindly and leggie growth. All seems well as the first green tops are penetrating the soil as I write this.
Working With the Weather…
There is a saying: make hay when the sun shines, this is meant to say for a gardener or even a farmer you have to work with the weather. Since much of the homestead chores have a small window of opportunity to accomplish it is important to follow this axiom. To this end I keep a daily Things to Do List which I review every morning and evening. I work according to the expected weather. Part of my winter weather To Do is making beer and this winter is no exception. This past week I brewed a nice Scottish Ale which will be ready for our summer entertaining. It is my habit to make wine in late spring and early summer with beer brewing in winter. The reason is that in winter there are generally snowbanks just outside the door which allows me to bury the wort, (that is unfermented beer) in the snow for rapid cooling in order to pitch the yeast. This allow little chance of air-borne yeasts to settle in the brew and keep the flavor true to the beer variety. So during Tuesday’s Nor’easter I brewed the ale on the coal stove in the living room and when the time was complete I swept up the brew pot and buried it in the 25 inches of snow just out the front door burying it at about 32 inches. Within a half-hour it was just the right temperature for pitching the yeast. It is now sealed in the primary fermenter, bubbling away in the cozy and comfy heat of the living room on its way to a great tasting beer.
… and so ends another week here at Hunny-Bunny Farm. All is well and God is in His heaven as I look out at the winter wonderland from my back door. Continue the Rosary of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary and add in the Prayer of the Publican, or the Jesus Prayer; it is a great ejaculation of penance and reparation most especially in this time of Lent. It is: Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner! Also ask Saint Patrick to bless my peas!
Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.