Starting peas

Starting peasIt won’t be too much longer before we get to start peas and other cool-season crops out in the garden. Here is a tip that a reader named Hank passed along to me:

Before I moved to Spokane 6 years ago, I grew vegetables in the Seattle area for 24 years.  One of the things I learned to do on the West side of the mountains was start sugar snap peas really early outdoors without having to transplant them.  The trick is to pre-sprout the seeds inside.  This technique also works here.

The first step is to soak the seeds overnight in water, in a clear wide-mouth jar so they plump up.  The next day, drain the water and cover the jar opening with a wet paper towel.  Then put the jar in a warm place like the top of a refrigerator.  Rinse the seeds everyday and re-moisten the paper towel. 

Within a week, the seeds will sprout, putting out a root and their first leaf. Once the root is formed, you can plant them outside, but I usually planted them when the first leaf was formed and green.  Dusting them with microrhyzomes when planting will help them grow faster, as will adding bone meal to the soil. 

In the Seattle area, I planted them out in January and every year would have 6 foot pea vines and peas to eat by the end of June and I had a yard that was shaded half of the day.  Here, you want to put them out once the ground thaws, which for this year is now.  You don’t have to worry about the peas freezing out this early.  One year in Seattle, about a week after I planted the peas in January, we had a cold snap that froze the ground hard.  I remember going out there, knocking on the ground that was hard as a board, and thinking they were finished.  But they survived and grew to their regular size.  Those sprouted pea seeds are tough!

If you want to give them extra protection, you can cover the planted seeds with floating row cover or make a small tent with twigs and clear plastic, leaving the plastic open on the end so they don’t overheat. 

Thanks for the tip, Hank! I’d like to hear from folks who try this in the Inland Northwest. And, as always, any time you have a tip to pass along, drop me a note at inthegarden@live.com.