Friday, March 20, 2009

Appease

Planted the peas last night. This is the earliest point in the season we've managed to get our peas in the ground. The weather was perfect; the soil was moist but not soggy from a steady drizzle all day. The ground was cold but workable, since the daytime soil temperature in the raised beds is significantly higher. Of course, this can be a detriment as well, since the temperature range can change much faster in the reduced soil volume of the raised beds. But once the peas have sprouted, this becomes less of an issue. We did miss the boat as far as the lunar planting schedule goes, but we'd rather take our chances now than wait another 2 or 3 weeks to get the peas started. Planting delays in years past have resulted in decreased yields, and we really want to take advantage of the pea plant's affinity for cold weather.

To speed germination, we pre-sprouted the peas 48 hours in advance by sandwiching the seeds between 2 layers of damp paper towels with some plastic wrap on top. After two days, about 50% of the peas had sprouted and all were noticeably swollen with water. In addition to pre-sprouting, we decided to use pea inoculant for the first time this year. Inoculant is an organic, naturally occuring bacteria that allows legumes to more easily fix nitrogen. The nitrogen is pulled out of the soil and 'fixed' to the plant roots in the form of storage nodules. In addition, the nodules help keep nitrogen in the soil even after the plant has died. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant health but is ephemeral in soil when not bound up in some kind of molecule. Nitrogen fixing is the primary objective when planting legumes such as clover and alfalfa as cover crops. We will also be employing bean inoculant at planting time in May.

The inoculant is packaged as a dry powder but is best applied directly to the peas by creating slurry with water. After thoroughly coating the peas, they should be planted as soon as possible. This isn't easy when your assistant is a two-year-old, but it can be done, especially since said two-year-old is easily distracted by shovels and dirt. Of course, immediately after planting, we received a light dusting of snow overnight. This shouldn't be a problem for the peas (famous last words) but we'll be keeping our fingers crossed anyway. The next step is to throw some row covers over the beds to keep the damn squirrels and possibly toddlers out. Although neither critter seems interested in devouring the peas, they are both attracted to recently disturbed soil and should be regarded as pests. Then again, the common house cat seems partial to napping on top of row covers as well, so you really can't win. Nature sucks.

2 comments:

Anthony said...

I planted peas yesterday also but it sounds like you did it the right way by pre-sprouting and using inoculant. I just stuck mine in the dirt. :)

Mark said...

I'm sure they'll do just fine. They know what to do. We can't help but tinker.