Planning Time? - Knowledgebase Question

Potomac, MD
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Question by pzsmith
February 10, 1998
I just purchased your seeds for sugar peas and buttercrunch lettuce. This winter in Maryland has been very mild. When can I put the seeds in the ground? The peas will be near a brick wall and gets lots of sun. The lettuce does not get as much sun. Each year I plant the sugar peas and the plant never does very well. I think I have been waiting too long to plant them. I want to be sure to have peas come up this year.

Answer from NGA
February 10, 1998
Keep your climate in mind when planting sugar snap peas. My map shows your last frost date as approximately April 10; try planting your peas in mid to late March. They prefer a temperature of 60 to 65 so you'll need to have them mature before the summer's heat arrives. The brick wall you are thinking of may generate too much radiant heat for the peas. You might try a first planting even earlier, followed by a second planting. Or plant them in another spot that won't heat up so much--save thatspot for a heat-lover.

Choose an early-maturing variety. 'Sugar Bon' is an early, compact variety; 'Super Sugar Snap' is a reliable bearer, but needs a trellis or fence to grow on. Peas will grow in a location that is partly shaded, so keep that in mind as well--especially for your second planting.

Lettuce seed can be sown directly in the garden as soon as your soil is workable in the spring. Try planting a whort row of lettuce when you plant your peas, followed by anothershort row each week. That way, you'll have tender young plants all spring. Once the weather warms up, though, the lettuce will "bolt", sending up seed stalks and becoming bitter. You can plant later plantings in partial shade to keep them cooler. While the lettuce is growing, try to maintain constant moisture.

How is your soil? Have you had a soil test performed recently? If not, perhaps you should. There may be an easily fixable problem in your soil that could be causing your poor crops. Contact you county extension office for details. If you do have a soil test performed be sure to look at what your pH is. Lettuce and peas like a pH in the range of 6.0-7.0. Consider working some organic matter such as compost, leaf mould, or composted cow manure into the planting sites this year; the peas and lettuce will appreciate it. I also noticed you mention you plant the sugar peas every year - be sure not to plant them in the same spot every year, by rotating crops you are helping to prevent disease and benefiting other crops by nitrogen fixation.

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