Early planting: Peas and Spinach
By Cynthia Averett, VINES Urban Farm Manager
I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden. – Ruth Stout
While it may seem too early to start thinking about planting outside, there are certain crops that can handle some cold weather, and now is the time to get ready to seed them! Peas and spinach are two crops that can handle the cold, and even a snowfall. They actually like to grow in cooler temperatures. These plants can be seeded 4-6 weeks before the last frost, and many people use St. Patrick’s Day as their pea and spinach planting date.
If your soil is thawed enough to work the first 1-2 inches on the top, it is ready to plant. Here in the north, our soil can be pretty wet this time of year. This can be a problem for peas and spinach, as both of these seeds can rot when they are too wet, but as long as you don’t have standing water in your planting area, you should be good to go. You should see your plants emerge in 1-2 weeks, however in colder temperatures, it could take up to 3 weeks. If you don’t see your plants emerge after 3 weeks, it is best to seed them again. The seeds may have rotted in the ground: you can always dig a few of the seeds up and check to see if they have begun to grow, but seeding again is your best bet.
Another way to make sure you get a good crop is to over-seed a bit: plant 2 pea seeds per hole, 1-2 inches deep. Each seed should be planted 2-3 inches apart. Once the plants emerge, you can thin them (pull a few plants out) so they are 4 inches apart. You should leave 18-24 inches between rows. Spinach can be planted with 2-3 seeds per hole, about ½ inch deep. You can plant them 1 inch apart, and thin them so they are 3-6 inches apart once they emerge. You should leave 12-18 inches between rows.
Both of these plants can grow in partial shade, however your peas will be sweeter if you grow them in full sun! This time of year, winter can seem like it will never end, but sowing your first seeds in the garden always gives hope that warm weather and sunshine is on it’s way!