The long-awaited first crocus “Cream Beauty” has finally opened! There is cause for celebration in the land! It was formally greeted and welcomed, intently inspected, and the rejoicing began! And THEN THE PLANTING commenced!!!
Let’s just pause here for a moment to sing praises for raised beds. If not for their ability to drain more quickly, no planting could have taken place. I waded through mud and puddles to even get to the potager (making the need for new boots higher on the priority list as my socks and feet were soaked!) Raised beds made this happy day possible! Even if you are a determined in-ground gardener, consider constructing one or two raised beds just to enable an early start. Sermon over, but let’s hear an “Amen!”
With rain in the forecast a mad rush was made to get the shallots in the ground. You may recall that last year was not a good year for any of the alliums, at least in this potager. Most of the shallots never divided and after harvest, many chose to rot. The usual reason shallots do not divide is the lack of enough cold temps early on, so they need to get planted early. Last year they didn’t go into the ground until April 8th so I was determined to get them planted NOW and hope that it doesn’t jump right into summer again. Some gardeners can plant shallots in autumn, but I’ve tried it here and only get about 60% survival in a mild winter. This “past” winter (Let’s hope it’s over!) certainly was far from mild. So, the few remaining shallot braids were pulled from the allium rack, inspections were made and there were enough firm shallots to plant 9 rows (6′ in length, triple rows in the center of 3 different beds.) This is a far cry from the norm, but it will have to do. The few shallots remaining after planting are big, doubles, triples or even larger that experience tells me will rot rather than grow. I prefer to plant singles if possible, but in order to finish the last row, a few of the smaller doubles were planted and a few were actually split apart to make singles. Here, we eat the big shallots and plant the small ones for greater success, the opposite of garlic!
The first planting of peas was also made, “Green Arrow” which has become my favorite variety even though they require a fence. Remember to plant peas generously, so they will be generous in return. Unfortunately, the seeds were already covered before I thought to take a photo, but you can use the “search” box above on this website for other pea planting posts. And, it was AFTER my excitement in planting the first peas that I actually consulted my carefully planned “pea succession” list to see that the “Strike” peas were actually supposed to be sown first in another location entirely. Oh, drats, but easily remedied with 3 more rows of “Strike” planted according to plan. Snow peas and snap peas could have gone in earlier, but it has just been too frozen or too wet, and I’m not really convinced that getting them in earlier results in an earlier crop, since my records show that harvest generally comes at the same time whether planted very early or with the first crocus like shelling peas. The snow peas are “Oregon Sugar II” and my first trial of “Sweet Magnolia,” the purple podded snap pea. Did you notice that in the Burpee catalog they show a lush photo of the purple pods opened and filled with big peas? Then, in the fine print description it says “best before pods are filled out.” I didn’t pre-soak them since they went into the interior border, along the north fence. The interior border is not really raised so it was wetter, and there is more rain on the way
“China King” Chinese cabbage, bok choys “Bo Pak” and “Violetta,” one seed package of “Robin Hood” fava beans (there are more planted in pots in the basement for comparison…I’m still struggling to get it right with favas!) and spinach were also planted. The spinach in the polytunnel is still looking good (and tasting even better, while I was there I harvested a bowl to add to lo mein for dinner!) and the spinach left totally in the open and uncovered the entire winter is looking better despite having its edges burnt by freeze (isn’t “freezer burn” an oxymoron?) so planting even more might be overkill (Wait! Can one be killed over again?) but I have friends that will appreciate fresh spinach if we have too much. Short 2′ rows of “Tuscan Baby” kale, “Mache,” and arugula “Runway” were planted where tomatoes will eventually go, providing a good harvest until that space is needed.
Such a productive day! This is not the earliest that planting has begun in the potager, but it’s definitely an improvement over last year. Now we wait to see what Mother Nature has planned for our early season, but things will work out regardless. Words cannot express how thrilled I am to REALLY have the potager’s season underway! I hope your season is progressing as well. May this be a bountiful year!