Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: Put down those iPods and think pPods

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I don't have an iPod, but I have had pPods er, pea pods, and plan to have plenty more this year. Peas, whether garden peas, snow peas or sugar snap peas, are one of my favorite vegetables. As such, I am champing at the bit to plant peas. Since they are cold hardy, i.e. able to withstand frost, they are one of the earliest vegetables to be planted.

I've often heard it mentioned that St. Patrick's Day (March 17) is a traditional planting date for peas in New England. Well, St. Patrick may have been adept at ridding Ireland of snakes but he did a darn poor job of ridding my garden of snow from the "Blizzard of 2017." Ruth Bass, in her column on Monday, recommended planting peas on Patriot's Day. That makes more sense, though it is possible to plant them earlier. After the warming temperatures and rains of the past week, there is a chance for early planting. However, I'll first have to make sure that my garden soil is workable, that is, the soil is no longer muddy. You know it's too muddy when you walk through the garden and discover that your shoes are somewhere behind you, stuck in the muck.

Perhaps a more sensible way to determine workability of garden soil is to dig down several inches with a trowel and remove a sample. Place the soil sample in the palm of your hand and squeeze. If water drips through your fingers, or, if upon releasing your hand, the soil clump remains intact after applying slight pressure with your finger, the soil is not workable. If the clump freely breaks apart, it is ready to be tilled for planting.

When shopping for garden pea seed, get several varieties, each with a different "days to maturity" time. This will extend the harvest season. Also, get a packet of the variety "Wando," known for its heat tolerance. Though this pea can be planted later in spring than other varieties, I suggest saving the seed for planting in summer for fall harvest. To determine the date for the summer planting, count back 75 days (68 "days to maturity" time for "Wando," plus seven days to account for germination time) from the average date of first frost for your area. For most of this region, that would put the planting date around the middle of July. Write that date on the seed packet and store it until July. It can be hot and dry then, so water the peas often through the summer. Enough with the pea and math lesson; time to move on to other tasks:

- Map out your vegetable garden and annual flower beds. This will help to determine how much room is available for plants. In turn, this will save you from buying more plants than can be accommodated in these gardens.

- Take cuttings from potted geraniums, begonias, coleus and impatiens that were grown indoors this past winter. Water the plants well several hours beforehand to make sure that the cuttings are fully turgid. The rooted cuttings, of course, can be used to make more houseplants, but the resulting plants may also be planted outdoors in flowers beds in June.

- Plan now to install a pollinator garden this spring. A pollinator garden consists of plants which are attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators. The list of suitable plants is too long to include in this column, but such lists are readily available via an internet search. Be sure to include some woody plants in the garden. For example, blueberry bushes can do double duty, that is, provide nectar and pollen for pollinators and give you a supply of fresh berries.

- Peek beneath mulches applied over plants in the perennial border and look for newly emerging growth. If new growth is apparent, remove the mulch. Likewise, remove mulch from strawberry plants when newly emerging leaves are seen. Set the mulch aside in case a hard freeze threatens, in which case some of the mulch should be re-applied. Once growth is well under way, it won't be necessary to re-apply the mulch.

- Take a stroll around your home landscape and look for colorful early blooming spring bulbs. Snow crocus, scilla, snowdrops and winter aconite should be in bloom. Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) may also be flowering now.

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