Friday, February 8, 2013

Weekend Gardening: Peas & Carrots

   In my southern garden, peas and carrots are in a love/hate relationship with me. To grow well, peas need colder temps and plenty of it..something greatly lacking here, especially this year. They generally do better in fall, but this season's extreme heat left mine as tiny shoots with no production. Carrots require sandy soils that drain well; extreme heat tends to cause the carrot root to produce turpines giving the carrot a bitter taste. After years and years of compost and mulch amendments, we do grow some carrots, but they can tend toward a bite that isn't pleasant.
   So what does one do? Well, some years I don't even bother..which means peas and carrots come from the market. Some years my adventuresome hope drives me to turn the soil and pray for amazing results. When it works, it is so rewarding. Who doesn't like snacking on fresh peas while pulling weeds?
   The key is timing and raised rows. In my garden we mound the rows up a good foot or two to and work in plenty of compost to provide proper drainage and a loose earth for the roots to work in. The timing is much more tricky.. peas and carrots need to hit the soil as soon as it is workable in the winter. I cover the seed rows with a floating row cover to hold in moisture and protect emerging seedlings from chilly nights or scavenging pests.
   The bare facts:
Direct seed in the garden the first of January (soon as you can work the soil).
 Small plot succession planting may be difficult in a short season.
Pea seeds may be soaked overnight before planting to soften the hard seed coat.
Carrots are slow to germinate..inter-planting with radish helps keep the soil loose and helps us remember the carrots are there.
Common southern variety- Pea
Dwarf grey sugar
Sugar snap
Little Marvel
Common southern variety- Carrot
Little finger
**note- small 'fingerling' carrots are better suited for southern gardens than large carrots

    My personal seed resource favorites are Producer's Co-op, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and Territorial Seed.

    If you intend to save seed, be sure to plant open pollinated/heirloom varieties allowing the strong plants to develop their flower head (carrot) or seed pod (pea). Once ripe seed pots are present on the carrot, gather them in paper bags crushing gently to release the seed. For peas, allow the pod to mature fully then dry completely after harvesting. Store seeds in a cool dry place for up to a year. Remember, carrots that have gone to seed will be very bitter. Along with the pea stalks these make great additions to your compost or given as fodder to your flocks and herds. 
   Have a beautiful weekend. Let's slip into some overalls and get growing!
Our Simple Farm

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