Hints of Things to Come

Our First Picolo Provencal Peas    

Our First Picolo Provenzale Peas

Friday morning–early–I was sitting in downtown Palo Alto in a Board meeting, in clean clothes with no visible dirt on me. But when someone there asked me what was good with me, I excitedly blurted out to the entire room, “We have peas!” Evidently, you can take the girl out of the garden, but…

These are the only peas that have survived from this year’s Pea Trial, the Pisello Nano Picolo Provenzale. I’ve been hunting for more seed for this variety and finally found it from Seeds from Italy. They are the U.S. distributor for Franchi Sementi spa of Bergamo, Italy, seedsmen since 1783. 1783, wow, I like the sound of that.

My mother-in-law comes from an Italian family and has liked other varieties of their seeds. I got some of the small Picolo Provenzale peas and also some of the Telefono variety which grow to 5-6′. 

Italian Winter Squash Sampler

Italian Winter Squash Sampler

I couldn’t help also ordering their collection of Winter Squash. They send you ten different varieties–and a bottle gourd–so we will be trying Padana, Marina di Chioggia, Quintale, Piena di Napoli, Tromba d’Albenga, Serpente di Sicilia, and four or five others. Just listen to the description for the Marina di Chioggia, “Very old variety from near Venice. 4-5 pound round fruit, grey/green knobby skin with sweet orange flesh. Essential for great soup, gnocci, roasting. Excellent keeper. 105 days.” Ahhh, those Italians!

The Pea Index

The Pea Index

But right now the garden is starting to show us a few more hints of things to come. The peas that got me all excited in the first place are growing pretty much flat until they are about the size of my index finger and then they start to round out some as the peas inside develop.

The January planting is roughly a square foot of pea plants that are flowering and developing peas at a rapid pace now that the weather has warmed some. They still have plenty of cool nights, which they supposedly like. I hope so, last night it got down to 39 and there was actually a light frost on the grass this morning when I went out. At this point, before a single pea has been eaten, I have to say that our January planting plan really has ended up getting us ahead of things, even if the peas got eaten by everything and developed very slowly. There are no flowers yet on the February planted patch yet.

Bush Beans Emerging from Flowers

Bush Beans Emerging from Flowers

We do have tiny beans growing though. The Bush Beans Roc D’Or Yellow Wax that are growing in a container on the back patio, where it is protected and warm, are flowering and slender beans have started to form.

I had expected two beans to form from each of the flowers but these are forming a single bean, which is still green but will turn a bright yellow as they mature. I love the way they look with the remains of the flower they formed from still stuck to their tips. These plants were also an early test that has turned out to be a good idea. These Bush Beans were sprouted inside under lights and planted as starts alongside seeds of the same variety that were put in at the same time these plants were hardened off. The beans growing from seed are doing well, but they don’t have flowers yet and are clearly behind the beans started indoors.

Even with starting things early, there isn’t much to eat in the garden right now. For lunch I made Pickled Radish salad with some of our delicious celery thrown in for good measure. I sliced the celery as thinly as possible, just like the radish, and pickled them together in the sea salt and sugar. Then I combined the radish tops and celery leaves, chopped them loosely and wilted them with a bit of water before tossing the radish and celery pickles with the dressing and the greens.

Maybe by next week I’ll be able to serve it with some fresh peas!

We Will Have Peas

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90 Days from Seed to Flower   90 Days from Seed to Flower

One way or another, we are determined that we *will* have peas from our garden. Two of the varieties from the Spring pea trial are all but forgotten, but the Picolo Provenzale  are growing in all three different plantings, and the January planting is starting to flower. OK, it’s what? Nearly 90 days out from planting, but hey, it’s flowers!

I’m also amazed that the Sugar Snaps in the back garden that each had their heads snapped off by some marauding varmint are starting to recover! They grew new vines from the roots up and around the bitten ends of the first ones and some of them are starting to put out tendrils like they mean to actually grow.

Sugar Sprints and Carrots

Sugar Sprints and Carrots

Nearby, in a 4′ x 4′ bed, there are Sugar Sprint peas growing, mostly under a burlap covered cage to protect them from everything. They don’t seem to mind the shade. The Picolo Provenzale starts in the front garden didn’t seem bothered by it while they were covered either. I take it off of them in the morning to allow them a few hours of direct sun and they seem fine.

buckets-of-tomatoesAnd we are getting to the stage where we have literally buckets of tomato plants. We have Roma Paste tomatoes for sauce and catsup, we have Principe Borghese for drying, we have Costaluto Genovese for fresh cooking, Big Beef and Crimson Carmello for slicing and eating, we even have a German Orange Strawberry tomato that I can’t wait to try! I’m afraid I may have even ordered some grape tomato plants in fun shapes and colors from Park Seed when it was still cold out and the garden was a limitless imaginary place.

Surviving the Spinach Monster--So Far!

Surviving the Spinach Monster--So Far!

And, happily, the evil Spinach Monster that devours my plants right down to the roots if I leave them outside after dark without a cover does not appear to like Bok Choi. What IS that thing? For a long time I thought it was ravenous snails or slugs because the plants that were up on the hottub cover at night weren’t bothered by it, but earlier this week several six-packs up there were creamed by whatever it is and the chard, tomatoes, peppers, etc. sitting right next to the spinach were fine. Maybe Popeye the Possum? I don’t know.

Early Lessons from the Pea Trial

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Lessons from the Pea Trial–So Far

Pisello Nano Piccolo Provenzale

Pisello Nano Picolo Provenzale

#1. Early planting does not equal early eating. It’s not just 55-60 days, it’s the *right* 55-60 days. We thought an early start would give us peas sooner, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case. Peas that were supposed to be ready to start picking in 55-60 days are just now 6″ tall a week after the 60 day mark we were hoping for. The peas planted February 18th may or may not be ready for picking by mid-April. We’ll let you know!

#2. Peas planted early seem to get damaged by pests a lot more than peas planted later. Maybe because there’s not much else out there looking green and delicious in January and early February. Or maybe we just got smarter about the covers we used as the trial went on.

#3. Peas appear to sprout and grow better in February than they do in January. Weather will surely influence this. We’ll track it next year and compare. This year January was warm and sunny, if that weather had continued, maybe the peas would have been on the table by now.

Pea Sprouts Protected by Plastic Netting

Pea Sprouts Protected by Plastic Netting

#4. Peas need to be grown under netting or cages in order to foil uninvited dinner guests. Upside down black plastic latticed plant carriers from the garden store worked well for the first few weeks, as did the onion bag netting we recycled. Neither of these methods was deep enough to allow for much growth and I would like to keep the peas protected longer, just in case. We lost a whole planting of snap peas in the back garden because something came along and snipped the tops off each of the vines. (Argh!!) We’ll keep the tall covers on these for the first several inches of growth and you can check out our Pea Trial page if you want know how our test of the burlap covered cages does.