Most people associate George Washington with a Cherry Tree.  My association of Good Old George is through peas.  Why is that?  I’m not sure how our family tradition began.  I think it might have been the joy my father felt at seeing dirt and not snow in February.  Yes, as a displaced North Dakotan, he was unbridled in his passion for peas, and for that matter, sunflowers, but that’s another story.

From early childhood my father imparted the pleasantries of peas to my sister and me.  The fact that they grew in weather that was not as productive for weed growth was yet another bonus for this late winter planting.  We loved the fact that we could harvest the little green jewels, before the weeds overtook our plants.   Loved the peas, loathed the weeding.  So, from an early age there has been a race to plant peas on George Washington’s Birthday.  Living in Oregon affords this timeframe for planting.  However, you need to find out what plant hardiness zone you live in.  This can easily be done online from several sites.  I like Garden.org. for information.  What you need is a consistent soil temperature that has reached 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Since peas are a cool-season plant you can plant early and be rewarded by an abundance of green fingerlings beckoning you to devour in about 65 days.  The added bonus is that you can also plant these seeds in the fall for a late season crop if your zone allows it.  In Oregon, that can be July or August.   For a greater production yield, you might consider an inoculant. I’m doing an inoculant experiment this year and will track it, to see if I get a 50% greater yield.  I’m mixing the inoculant to look like paste and rolling my peas in it.  I’ve heard that is all you have to do.  This also works with beans, which I will be planting soon.

OK, I have to admit, this is one of the few years that I didn’t plant my peas on George Washington’s birthday.  I’m located in a very challenging space right now, so I will call this my year of mad gardening experiments.  Most of my life I’ve lived on hilltops or ridges. Sunshine was endless and crops were abundant. I now live in a boggy bottom of verdant vines and swampy soils.  This year will be spent experimenting with limited light and fussy PH levels.  I will be sharing the transformation of our Sand Volleyball Court into a Garden O’ Plenty.  If my experiment doesn’t work, I have a backup plan. Friends with benefits, and in my case I mean they have extra land available for me to plant.   I’m also a native forager, so when my garden doesn’t perform, I will forage on my shady acre and share some native plant lore.  I can see the camas just peeking through and the licorice fern is in abundance.  I just read a fabulous article about a local chef, Matt Lightner, who also forages and cooks up some amazing dishes from NW foraged foods.  http://www.oregonlive.com/mix/index.ssf/food-trends/castagna-chef-matt-lightner-forages-the-northwest.html

Enjoy the read and let’s get gardening.

Susan Epping is a Beekman NW Area Heirloom Garden Evangelist.  She live on almost 2 acres of shade covered land with her partner Rick, college bound daughter and pets.  Sue likes promoting backyard gardening and no spray landscaping along with foraging for native edibles.

by Sue Epping

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