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  For LOTS of Spring Peas--Sprout NOW, Plant on Pat's!

I know--you're not thinking about putting anything in the ground THIS early in the season. But there are two very good reasons to get peas in the ground on March 17th:

1) These ARE called "SPRING Peas" for a reason: They are NOT a summer crop. As soon as it gets hot, the vines wither up and depart this mortal coil. If you wait till it seems a reasonable time to plant, your vines may shrivel and die just as the first peas are ready for picking. It's a lot like going back to dating in High School.

2) And one of the great superstitions of gardening is that is it LUCKY to plant peas on St. Patrick's Day. And as you probably know all too well, we gardeners NEED that luck much much more than normal people.

* It's the right time AND it's lucky--you're already two points ahead of your normal score. (No matter WHAT, plant by April 1st or you're wasting your time--and the peas')

Your choices are: Sweet and crispy snow peas; pick 'em while they're still flat and enjoy, pod and all, in salads and stir-fries (MY fave pea type). Southern favorite 'snap' or 'sugar' peas; let the pods get fat, but still eat the whole sweet thang. And, of course, your basic 'English', 'garden' or 'shelling' peas, where you zip open the pod and just eat the peas. (You'll need a tall trellis if you don't go with Snow.)

But even SNOW pea seeds won't sprout outside if the weather turns (or stays) frigid. So plant sprouted seeds outside. You'll pick peas for six weeks as opposed to two days. Surround your seeds with wet paper towels and put 'em in a Ziploc bag, BUT DON'T SEAL IT! The seeds should sprout in 48 hours. If it's warm on St. Pat's, plant 'em all. If it's REAL cold, plant one (for luck), wait a few days and plant the rest.

Dig a little trench next to a trellis, fence or thin sticks jammed into the ground, so your vines will have something to climb. Add a tablespoon of wood ash per foot of row and a heapin' helpin' of compost, drop in your sprouted seeds (don't be afraid to crowd 'em--they love it!); cover with an inch of non-clay soil or (better!) seed starting mix and water.

Then be brave--if a cold wave hits, it may be awhile before the sprouts shoot thru, but they will. Water weekly if it don't rain, and feed with compost tea every other week. Pick promptly when the peas start coming--the more you pick, the more you get!

And for the Advanced Class...

Get some 'pea and bean inoculant' at the garden center and roll your seeds around in the flour-like stuff before you bury 'em. Bacteria in the powder will form a symbiotic relationship with your plants, enabling them to suck plant-feeding nitrogen right out of the air. (Also works with 'string' and other beans.) WAY cool.

Great science experiment: Start some peas 'with' and some 'without' on a windowsill. Pull a few up after a month or so. The inoculated plants will have little round growths on their roots, showing that bacteria and plant have become one (better) organism!

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