Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: Cool nights, frequent rain were perfect for peas

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I haven't read of any official summary of this summer's weather thus far. However, I have concluded that it may have been cooler than normal. How do I know? My peas told me so.



"Oh no! He's been sipping the fermented cabbage juice again." No, I haven't. Normally, my pea-picking season begins in late June and, at best, continues until late July, at which time I cut down the plants and turn them under as a green manure. It is rather unusual for me to be harvesting peas this late into the summer. Yet, pea plants which began yielding their fruit in late June continue to pump out pods of sweet tasting peas.



How do I account for this extended harvest? I believe there are three factors.The first is that we were quite consistent in harvesting pea pods every two days. A normal response of pea plants is to continue to flower and produce peas as long as the pods are not allowed to reach full maturity. A second factor may have been cool nights and a limited number of days when high temperatures exceeded the normal. Studies have shown that the fewer the number of days above 80 F, the longer is the duration of flowering and pod production. A third factor has been the frequency of rainfall. Again, there are studies which demonstrated that irrigation or rainfall lessened the reduction in production caused by high temperatures. And we certainly have been blessed with frequent and timely rains this summer.



While on the subject of peas, allow me to convey my favorite recipe using fresh-picked peas. Begin by ...

"We interrupt this column for breaking news from our reporter in the field ... er, garden, Justin Thyme: 'As reported in Ron whatshisname's column last week, a nest of baby bunnies was discovered in his vegetable garden several weeks ago. As usual, he vacillated as to what course of action he could take to humanely rid the garden of the rabbits — which, at the time, were still being nursed by momma bunny — before they would dine on his crops. It can now be reported that the bunnies have flown the coop uh ... fled the nest. Their fate is unknown, but a pair of hawks had been seen buzzing the garden during the past few days. We now return you to our regularly scheduled column.'"



... Then add some grated parmesan and you're ready for a very tasty treat. Bon appetite!

GARDENING CHORES

Here's a recipe for cooking up a storm of activities in the garden this week:



- Harvest sweet corn as soon as the ears have filled out. You can determine this by feeling the end of an ear. It should be rounded or blunt, as opposed to tapered. Also, harvest corn early in the day when the sugar content is highest or just before tossing the corn in a pot of boiling water.



- Don't fret if you missed "Sneak a Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Front Porch Day" which was on Aug. 8. You can compensate by donating your surplus zukes and any other excess veggies to local food pantries. Now, place the date on your 2018 calendar.



- Sow seeds of leaf and/or romaine lettuce for a fall harvest. Keep in mind that the season for lettuce and certain other cold hardy vegetables, such as carrots, beets and kale, can be extended well into late fall and even early winter by inserting PVC pipe or sturdy wire hoops over the plantings and covering with row covers or clear plastic sheeting.



- Tidy up the perennial garden. Begin by deadheading the spent flowers of earlier blooming plants. When deadheading, cut the flower stem back as far down into the plant as needed to conceal the cut end. Many plants which have been deadheaded will often respond by producing new growth and possibly more flowers. Even if they do not flower again at least the perennial border will look neat, even neater if you remove tattered and dead leaves.



- Move houseplants kept outdoors this summer to a very shady location before moving them inside at the end of the month. This will acclimate them to reduced light indoors.



- Prepare your supply of winter potting soil now. Mix together some garden loam with coarse sand and peat moss or compost. The exact proportions will vary depending upon the texture of your garden soil, but you can start by mixing equal parts of each component. The finished product should feel light and airy.

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