Quick, this year March, 2012, is time to plant the peas. Boy, the warm weather sure arrived fast this year. There is a piece of Irish farm lore that says when you can sit naked on the ground it's time to plant the peas.
I find it interesting to check my old yearly records. Pea planting time in 1977 was April. By April 22 the peas were 2 inches tall. On May 7 the spinach sprouted, and then on May 10th there was a snow storm. By May 30 all the vegetable seeds were up.
Weather is very unpredictable which explains why old farmers always talk about it. This year has been a weird year. Almost no snow, then too hot too early, then a cold snap, finally spring comes, and then who knows what will descend next.
Because its been so unseasonably hot, all the flowering trees and shrubs have started to come out all at once. This is unfortunate because the spring's beauty lasts longer when they bloom more slowly and sequentially. However nature is overwhelmingly temperature sensitive. A few cold days and the swelling buds stop, shiver and wait a bit.
What is very clear about weather is that the earth is getting much warmer and storms much stronger. Expect your perennials will be early too this year, so plan for more summer annuals in the flower borders.
This year "ecology" and "green" are the fashionable big buzzwords, so lots of folks are trying to grow vegetables again. About 50 % of families used to. Fortunately the web has infinite how-to information (though also usually selling something). Also handy is a small book just of facts or a good seed catalogue.
Everyone loves peas. They grow fast. They are delicious to eat raw popped from the pod while you are picking. I especially like to grow Chinese pea pods to eat whole. There are dozens of varieties between regular peas and the tender edible-pod kinds. And you don't even have to first test the ground temperature with your bare body.
Quick, prepare your site and plant the peas before it heats up too much. Everything is almost a month earlier this year. It may be a very hot and dry year, so also set up a hose for watering. I like to make a diagram for the vegetable garden. Short plants on the southern exposure with taller ones behind. Include the supports and stakes, especially for a small area. If animals are a problem, consider a protective fence.
After you harvest the peas, plant a second fall crop in that space. And if you really want to enjoy growing food, for it is fun, be a realist. Expect to harvest about 25% of what you plant. Old English lore says, "One for the rook, one for the crow, one to die and one to grow."
Ruth S. Foster is a landscape consultant and arborist. More gardening information can be found on her website, www.mothersgarden.net.