Sturdy Celtuce and beetroot seedlings ready for transplanting were started in the greenhouse and set into the cold frame for a couple of weeks to become strong enough to handle harsh spring winds, late snow and bright sunshine.

Given our all-over-the-place-weather (we’re supposed to complain about the weather, right?), it seems that spring 2017 is arriving slow and low, and to be honest – I am totally fine with that. We seem to have escaped late frosts so far (although, the thermometer did dip down to near freezing last night!), all in all, it’s a rather typical spring, one perfect for cool weather crops which is what I am going to focus on here. These rather normal or slightly cooler than normal temperatures in the North East mean that asparagus, potatoes, broad beans, sweet peas and lettuce are all enjoying a nice, slow start outdoors – what more can a vegetable grower ask for?

With some time on my hand after being laid off, I can take the proper amount of time to prep soil, plant and plant so many crops which in the past I had to squeeze in on a weekend. I may have over-estimated my free time however, for it’s not as if I haven’t been busy. This week we hosted the folks from Barnhaven Primroses in France and the American Primrose Society which I write about soon for a cocktail party one night and then a banquet sit down dinner on Saturday night, and then there are the garden chores. A friend of mine said something to me last week which resonated -“have you reached that point where you say to yourself – How did I ever find time for work?”. Yeah, I’ve reached that point.

Seed potatoes cannot wait – even if a party is planned for the weekend, so I had to make time to cut, air-dry and plant 6 varieties of potatoes for a project I am working on. Look at those colors! Heirloom purple, , Russian Fingerlings and new red varieties to test – I almost can’t wait until September!
A few rows of French Fingerlings should be enough for a bushel of waxy, red-skinned potatoes which can be harvested in early autumn. The soil looks cold, but warms up quickly in the spring sunshine. Since the seed potatoes are sprouting already, I cannot wait any longer to get them into the ground. Trenches are dug 10 inches deep, filled with compost and potatoes are covered with 3 inches of soil – the rest will be hoed up in hills as the shoots emerge and grow.
I’ve planted four long rows of English peas – peas for eating (yes bro, I do grow some peas for eating). This varieties are shorter growing, but shelling peas can grow quite tall if one plants older varieties. I have avoided planting snap peas however and studies have shown that most commercial strains have lost vigor and quality, so I am waiting for sugar snap and ‘sugar Ann to stabilize again – something I know Johnny’s Selected Seeds is working on/ The perfect excuse to revisit shelling peas, but one must grow long rows to be able to get enough to eat and freeze.
Cut Flower Sweet Peas are set out in well limed soil. Plants have been pinched, which is essential for branching and thick stems. If you have never pinched your sweet peas, I urge you to buck up and do it. You will end up with leaves 6 inches wide, and long stems, especially if you only allow a couple of stems to mature, removing all of the rest. I never allow the leader to grow on, only the side shoots which are much more vigorous.
Cut Flower Spencer varieties of sweet peas ready for planting. All raised in deep trays called ‘root trainers’ except the two back trays which are 2 inches deep, and one can see the difference when the plants are taken out of the pots.
Here is a better shot of the strong roots which root training or deep pots allow. The deeper the pot, the healthier the seedling. Notice how this sweet pea is pinched back to the first pair of leaves, and the two side shoots emerging.
Root training pots or cells which are very deep are useful for cut flower sweet peas, as one can see here. Deep roots will ensure strong plants once set into the soil.
I have a few places where I grow, but I also like raised beds (no bending over!). These are handy for crops that provide fast harvests for the kitchen or crops sensitive to flea beetles, root larvae and ground insects – so radishes remain clean without insecticide, and mesclun and arugula can’t get peed on by the dogs. Really, it’s a thing! These elevated beds are available from Gardener’s Supply Company, and I really love them (this isn’t a paid post, either but I have offered to write about them in the past, as you might know.). They are made of cedar and the one on the left has a cover and works well as a cold frame. I find them very useful and well made.

Cut flower sweet peas will always be on my planting plans, and this year, I am going overboard – raising almost every variety of Spencer Sweet Peas that I could find. These are the ones with long stems which are so fragrant, and old fashioned. I think this is the 30th year I have raised sweet peas. which is scary to think about, but I first…