Long before the advent of calendars, farm folk had sayings to help recall when certain chores needed to be done. I like following many of these old proverbs, because in my experience they are generally more accurate than dates. Just because it is St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t mean potatoes should be planted if the ground is still frozen solid, or I can “feel in my gut” that it just isn’t time. And St. Patrick’s is obviously too late for gardeners who live in the South. Old-timers know that the time to plant potatoes is when the “pineys” (that’s peonies to non-Hoosier readers) are hand high (about 4″ tall) rather than any certain date. Corn can be planted when the oak leaves are the size of squirrel’s ears. Tomatoes aren’t planted outdoors until I see volunteer borage seedlings.
Another bits of lore is “When the daffodils bloom it’s pea planting time!” Last year, I was impatient to get my new potager started, so I planted some peas March 7 when the first crocuses bloomed. They did not do well at all. Poor germination, lots of floppy foliage, few pea pods. My first daffodil bloomed on March 14, 2016 so again I planted shelling peas, and these were beautiful and bountiful.
Needless to say, this year I returned to the “wise ways” and waited. Some daffys were budded weeks ago, but none had opened, so still I waited. And waited, muttering to myself repeatedly, “Nothing is to be gained with rotting seeds in cold soil.” The days clicked by on the calendar.
But finally, my patience was rewarded and these little beauties opened their frilly trumpets and surrounding petals! They didn’t seem too thrilled at all, rather sulking, or maybe just shy? But, I was thrilled to see them. At last! It was pea planting time! So, along part of the potager’s west fence went an heirloom variety “Early Frosty.” In two of the raised beds, wide bands of “Little Marvel” were sown. Yes, I plant peas in 4″ bands, randomly, liberally scattered rather than spaced singly in rows. Why? Because back in the 70’s a wise gardener once said, “If you are stingy with peas, they will be stingy with you.” He was right. He probably learned it from a wise old gardener in his youth as well. Good gardening lore is passed on from one generation to the next.
I was glad I hadn’t soaked the seeds before planting, as I’d barely finished when the rain began. The light rain that evening turned into a full day and following night of noisy thunderstorms. The daffodils are drooping even further today. But, as soon as it stops raining, and the soil is ready again, I’ll do succession plantings with one of my favorites, “Green Arrow” and more “Little Marvel.” Then two weeks later “Maestro” will follow, and lastly “Wando,” because it is the most heat tolerant. Pasta with fresh peas, crisp bacon bits, cream, and parmigiano soon to come….ah, bliss!