Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sowing the Peas and a Spinach Update

Peas are one of the crops that did very well last year.  I suppose this isn’t surprising considering the very cool start to the summer we had – we didn’t end up getting summer like temperatures until July.  All the cool weather crops were in heaven while the warm weather crops just sat there, shivering.



Last Years Sugar Snaps
 
I am growing 3 different varieties of pea this spring, all of which are sugar snap peas.  I have “Sugar Snap” (Cottage Gardener – this is the one I grew last year) and “Super Sugar Snap” (William Dam), which are both climbers. I am also planting a bush type sugar snap called Cascadia” (Pinetree).

Last year, I sowed the peas on May 1st (which is, apparently, about 3 weeks late in my area).  They didn't start to emerge from the soil until 1 week later, with some not germinating until almost 2 weeks later.  This year, I thought I would try soaking and pre-germinating the seeds in order to speed things up a bit.

I placed each variety of pea into separate containers and covered with water to soak for 2 hours.  As often happens, I got distracted with other stuff and, 6 hours later, I remembered my poor peas.  They had all swollen immensely & one even split in half.  I was a bit worried, thinking that I had blown it, but carried on with pre-germinating them anyway.
 
The two climbers I rolled up in paper towels & placed into baggies as I did not have that many seeds for each type.  For the bush type pea, however, I had over 120 seeds.  I lined an aluminum tray with a damp paper towel, placed the seeds on top in a single layer, and then covered them with another damp towel.  The whole thing went into a large clear bag which was then closed.  This was done on Friday evening.  By Sunday evening – we had lift-off!  Many of them had germinated – and I was SO relieved.
 


Germinated Peas
 
I immediately went outside to plant my seeds.  And, of course, it was FREEZING – with the wind chill, it was 3°C (27°F).  My fingers were numb after I sowed the 2 rows of climbing peas, so I left the bush type peas to be sown the next day.  Thankfully I had already prepared the bed a couple of days before when I transplanted the spinach (it occupies one corner of pea bed).  At that time, I incorporated a bag of sheep manure, some kelp meal and greensand.  In the area where I transplanted the spinach, I also added soybean meal for extra nitrogen.  Although soybean meal is great as an organic nitrogen boost, apparently it can inhibit seed germination, so I didn’t want to incorporate it into the part of the bed where the peas would go.
 
As I was sowing the peas, all I was thinking about was how cold I was – I wanted to get this done as quickly as possible & get back to a nice warm house.  And wouldn’t you know it, in my rush I forgot something and it didn’t even occur to me until the next morning when I saw it on my desk - the inoculant that I was SUPPOSED to put on my peas before I filled in the row.
 


Double Row of Climbing Sugar Snap Peas - Sans Inoculant
 
So what to do?  I didn’t want to chance disrupting the seeds by uncovering the rows, so I decided to just sprinkle it over the 2 rows & lightly scratch it into the top of the soil.  Hopefully, it will work its way down when it rains.  I didn’t use inoculant last year because I was unable to find it & the peas seemed to do just fine.  But I keep thinking that they may have done even better had I used it.  Apparently, you only need to use inoculant on beds that have never held legumes.  Once a bed has had peas or beans growing in it, it will already have the beneficial bacteria that these crops need to fix nitrogen.
 
The next day, the weather was much better and I was able to actually take my time & enjoy the process of sowing the bush sugar snaps.


Bush Sugar Snaps
This time I DIDN'T forget the inoculant!
 
And now on to the spinach.  When I started the spinach seeds in early April, I had a hard time with germination.  I decided to try two different methods (which I talked about HERE) to see if I could get better and/or faster germination.  None of the methods were overly successful: 
  • The original seeds (started on April 3rd) & kept in a warmish (22°C/71°F) spot yielded a total of 5 germinated seeds (out of 20).  These took 9-15 days to germinate.
  • The 10 seeds that I soaked, refrigerated for a day, and then left in the basement at 19°C (66°F) resulted in 5 seeds germinating - these took 4–12 days.  Better, but not great - I would expect a higher germination rate, especially as these are fresh seeds.
  • The worst, by far, were the 10 seeds that I soaked & then simply placed in the coolish basement - one seed germinated after 12 days & that was it.

I sowed all of the pre-germinated seeds into cell packs & then transplanted the seedlings outside on May 2nd.  On that day, I was about to get rid of the rest of the seeds when I noticed that a couple more of the refrigerated ones had germinated (23 days after starting them).  I sowed these directly into the spinach bed.

I am planning on growing "Galilee" spinach for summer harvesting (it is supposed to be very heat tolerant), so when I start the seeds (which actually won’t be too long from now – better make a note on my calendar before I forget!!), I will definitely do another germination experiment.


Tiny Spinach Seedlings Under Their Row Cover
 
Whenever I grow something for the first time (like this spinach), I always think how small and fragile the seedlings look.  In the back of my mind I’m thinking – how on earth are these teeny tiny greens going to be able to grow into enough for a salad?  Come to think of it, I get this feeling for almost every vegetable I grow, regardless of whether I have grown it before or not.  But, in MOST cases, the plants grow by leaps and bounds & I am just struck by how amazing it is.  When you look at what happens to that little seedling in just a few weeks, it really is miraculous!

Till next time

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

4 comments:

  1. I've never innoculated my legumes......and yet I've always had good results. Maybe I could do better, but I'm happy and figure it's one less thing I have to do. It hasn't done a thing but rain all week---I'm falling more and more behind. I don't mind a cool growing season, but the rain has to stop at some point, doesn't it??????
    I've always had poor germination on spinach. It was interesting for me to read about your "trials" on different sowing methods.

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    1. We’ll see how well my peas do. I had so many issues with the garden last year, that I’ll try anything that gives me a chance of better results! But even if they do really well, who’s to say that it wasn’t because of some other factor like the weather or my soil amendments (which I’ve changed from last year).

      I’ll be starting another round of spinach soon – a variety that is supposed to stand up to the summer heat. I’m going to be trying a couple of other ways of germinating - hopefully I’ll be more successful this time!

      I really hope the rains lets up for you soon - it’s so frustrating when the weather does not co-operate with our gardening plans, isn’t it?

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  2. How old are your spinach seeds? I find that germination rates decline rapidly after a year or two. I usually pre-sprout my seeds as well. I just soak them for 5 minutes then place them in between a folded damp paper towel, which is then sealed inside a plastic sandwich bag. Left at room temperature, they sprout very quickly but at varying rates so I sow them over several days.

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    Replies
    1. The seeds are fresh – I got them from Baker Creek this spring. Maybe it has to do with the variety I selected? I’ll be growing a different variety to try for summer harvest called Galilee. I’ll try a couple of different ways of germinating them, just to see if it makes any type of difference – hopefully, I have better luck with these.

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