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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Garden Spot

Air Date: Week of

Aaaah, the first signs of spring and that means it's time to plant the peas. Host Steve Curwood joins Living On Earth Traditional Gardener Michael Weishan for this first rite of the season.


CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Well, if you like peas, it's time now to get them in the ground. The vegetable is one of the many crops that must be planted as early as possible. Our traditional gardener, Michael Weishan, is here to help us do just that.


CURWOOD: So, I gather this is your pea patch?

WEISHAN: This is our pea patch here. It's a little bit of a smelly pea patch at the moment because we've been digging in some fairly fresh horse manure. But peas are heavy feeders, so you really want to make sure that the garden is well-fertilized and well-composted before you start.

CURWOOD: So they're going to need a lot of fertilizer. What are some of the other secrets to really growing peas?

WEISHAN: Well, one of the secrets to growing peas is to get them started as soon as you can. They're very much a cool weather crop. They don't bear particularly well when the day is warm. So as soon as you can get into the ground, literally, you know, pretty much after the snow melts and it's not totally soggy, it's the time to start planting.

CURWOOD: All right; well let's get going then.

WEISHAN: Okay, first thing is to grab a shovel. I'm going to give you this one. (Shovel scrapes) And I'm going to take this one. And what we really want to do here is dig in this manure. Now, I've already started the process. Essentially, I laid in about 3 inches of rotted compost manure on top of the soil, and have been starting to dig it in. And as usual (digging) this is always easier said than done. (Digging) I don't know what that is. There's something tough down here. Let's see if we can dig out what this is.

CURWOOD: Treasure chest.

WEISHAN: Not in this house. (Grunts)

CURWOOD: Wow, look at that.

WEISHAN: Yeah. No, it's something big down in there. A fair-sized 10-pound stone or so, which we're going to lob out of our bed. It's amazing how this stuff works up with the frost heaves. No matter how many you take out, there's always more around the corner. (Digging) Okay. There are essentially 2 kinds of peas. The type that you can eat the pod, like snow peas, like you see often in Oriental cuisine, and standard podded peas that you have to split open. And we're going to actually be planting the kind that you can actually eat the shell, because I kind of prefer that. You get a little more crop out of the way.

CURWOOD: And they're so sweet. I mean, even the shells are really sweet-tasting.

WEISHAN: Yeah, absolutely. And there's a trick to actually picking peas. And it's to do it in the morning, because as the heat of the day rises, often, they'll get slightly dehydrated, and then rehydrate again in the evening. So you want to pick peas first thing in the morning.

CURWOOD: How hard is it to get these peas to grow?

WEISHAN: Peas are one of the oldest crops. They've been in cultivation for thousands of years. And one of the reasons they've been so popular all the years is that they're exceedingly easy to grow. (Seeds spilling) Now, most people plant peas in a row, and then you have to have this very intricate trellising system, because of course peas are vines and they'll often grow head high or taller. We like to use what is similar to a tomato tower. As a matter of fact, they actually double as tomato towers. This is a trick that my dad taught me. This is the reinforcing wire, this real heavy-gauge wire that concrete is reinforced with. So we have about 100 of these things floating around, and I like to use them to plant the peas. Because it becomes a very easy process. You just simply take your shovel and scoop away a little bit of the soil, and then just toss a handful of peas in there. And then simply place this circular tower right over them.

CURWOOD: So these are going to be ready to eat in...?

WEISHAN: Sixty days.

CURWOOD: They'll be gone, I guess, by the time it gets really hot in the middle of summer, huh?

WEISHAN: Well, the snap peas, unlike the regular standard potted peas, are much more heat-resistant. So we plant these all the way up through probably June or so. And every couple of weeks I'll plant another row, so that you have a constant supply of peas. I'm of a personal opinion that you really can't have too many peas, because they eat beautifully fresh. You can freeze them. You can use them in soups, in stews, in every possible type of cuisine. So it's hard to have too many.

CURWOOD: Okay, Michael. I'll be back in 2 months from today to have some of these sugar snap peas.

WEISHAN: If we get everything planted, yeah.

CURWOOD: (Laughs) Okay. Michael Weishan is Living on Earth's traditional gardener, as well as publisher of the magazine Traditional Gardening. If you have any questions about vegetable gardening, ask Michael at our Web site. The address is www.livingonearth.org. That's www.livingonearth.org. Click on the picture of the watering can.



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