Last fall I scattered Austrian Winter Pea seeds over several of the small beds in the herb garden next to our office, and lightly raked them in. For the past couple of weeks, every other day or so I pinch off a few of their small shoots as I walk from the house to the office and back. Like many children, I relish the ability to eat vegetables right in the garden, within a few moments of picking them. At this time of year, I cherish the diversity Austrian Winter Peas add to the range of very fresh food I can eat.
Yesterday I brought some pea shoots to Penny and her mother Scarlet, and then I brought Penny and Scarlet to the Austrian Winter Peas. Penny devoured them, and Scarlet said that one of her favorite memories of her own childhood was of eating peas and pea shoots in her neighbor’s garden in British Columbia.
In a few weeks I’ll be frequently snipping off a bowlful at a time of large, lush shoots, adding them to salads and stir-fries, as well as snacking on them.
Like other legumes, these peas form relationships with rhizobial bacteria in the soil that pull nitrogen out of the air and make it available both to the pea plants themselves, and to the next crop we plant in these beds. Austrian Winter Peas are more frequently planted as a cover crop than for eating. Our half-pound package is appropriate as a cover crop for small gardens, and as food crop for gardens, homesteads, and other small farms. For maximum nitrogen fixation, we could decide to till these peas under shortly after they start to flower. Or, we could leave them a little longer to enjoy the two-tone purple edible flowers.
I wish I was a better record-keeper and could tell you what day I planted this small crop of Austrian Peas. The best time is 4-6 weeks before your first fall frost, but I planted well past that date. Even planting them now would yield some benefit in our climate, and in colder parts of the country, Austrian Winter Peas are generally spring-planted as soon as the soil can be worked. They can take lower temperatures than other peas, even a little below 0°F for short periods, but if you plant them in fall in zone 7 or colder, you might want to mix the seed with rye to shelter the pea plants through the winter.
Lisa Dermer & Ira Wallace
Perennial onion bulbs (shallots, potato onions, and other multiplying onions) and garlic bulbs store very well over the winter provided that they are well-cured, dry, well-ventilated, and not packed over 4 inches deep. See our earlier post on HARVEST AND CURING to learn how to harvest and cure your garlic and perennial onions for optimal storage quality.
Ideal conditions are a temperature between either 32-40°F or 50-70°F with 60-70% humidity. Commercially grown garlic is stored in the dark at about 32°F and 65% humidity. Depending on the species and variety, the bulbs may last six months or even longer. Garlic will sprout prematurely if kept between 40-50°F (the temperature of many refrigerators). You can use an unheated room in your house, a root cellar, your garage, etc.
Maintain good air circulation.
Most varieties store reasonably well in a cool room if hung from the ceiling in mesh bags, or spread on shelves in a layer less than 4 inches deep.
Don’t Just Forget About ‘Em!
Inspect stored perennial onions and garlic once a month or more often. Remove bulbs which have sprouted or spoiled or else the whole batch may spoil.
To Plant or Eat?
The larger multiplier onion bulbs should be eaten or planted in the fall because they have a tendency to sprout easily. Large perennial onion bulbs may also be grown in pots or flats in your home during the winter, and used as a source of greens all winter long. Keep the smaller bulbs for kitchen use. Well-cured and -stored bulbs may keep all the way through to the following year’s harvests.
For seed garlic, ideally select large, well-formed bulbs with good wrappers. If your bulbs aren’t high quality — e.g., the wrappers don’t fully cover the differentiated cloves, you can still plant otherwise well-formed cloves.
By Ira Wallace
It’s mid-January but maybe you’re just itchin’ to do a little gardening despite the cold, dark weather. Here are five easy gardening tasks to scratch your gardening itch.
1) First, if you want to work outside and you did your homework by preparing a bed or two last fall, now is a good time to plant those small potato onions that you put aside in October or November when you planted most of them. (If you’re wondering what the heck is a potato onion, check out Yellow Potato Onions.) Plant on a dry sunny day when the ground isn’t too wet.
2) Starting bulbing onions and bunching onions from seed is another traditional January task. For bulbing onions be sure to pick the right day-length for your area. Use flats filled with good quality organic potting mix or well-screened compost. Either broadcast or sow 1/2″ apart. For bulbing onions transplant when the plants are less than a pencil’s width.
3) A third January job is starting lettuce in flats. At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson started “a thimble-full” of seed every week. For a more modest family size garden, sow a pinch of seed every couple of weeks.
4) Here on our Virginia farm (zone 7 now but we used to be 6b) we start our first broccoli and cabbage in January. For these early sowings we like Calabrese and Green Goliath broccoli and Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage. We plan to set out the seedlings in 6-8 weeks.
5) Rhubarb and globe artichokes are two perennials that you can grow as annuals if you start them now. Six weeks after sowing, vernalize the young plants by keep them below 50°F for another six weeks.