Monday, February 18, 2013

When Should I Plant Peas and Potatoes?

Especially after a relatively mild winter like the one we've been experiencing, impatient gardeners are beginning to feel as though it must be just about planting time for some of the cool weather vegetables. The impatient gardener here in Cobb County would not be wrong.

UGA's "Vegetable Planting Chart," (document is a pdf) linked through its "Vegetable Gardening in Georgia" publication, shows planting dates for middle Georgia that need to be adjusted by a couple of weeks for our area, but the opportunities for planting are about to become numerous! However, for the best chance of planting success in an unusual winter, any date-based chart should be double-checked against other factors.

For peas and potatoes, which are among the earliest-planted vegetables in the spring garden, soil temperatures provide a valuable guide. What does soil temperature have to do with planting time? If the soil is too cold and wet, seeds and seed potatoes set out to grow will, instead, rot in the ground.

Vermont's Cooperative Extension includes a helpful note for gardeners concerning soil temperature and early spring planting in its publication "Planting Peas and other April Gardening Tips" :
"One of the first crops you can plant in the spring are peas.  This vegetable thrives in cool, moist climates with early plantings normally producing greater yields than plantings later in the season.  Wait until the soil temperature is at least 45 degrees F, then plant seeds one to two inches deep and one inch apart in single or double rows."
Potatoes do best when planted with a similar temperature minimum.

Our soils warm up to 45 degrees and above way before April, but the basic rule still applies. The good news for us is that Georgia's Automated Environmental Monitoring Network shows that soil temperatures at the weather station in Dallas already are about 45 degrees F, while soil temperatures at the weather station in Alpharetta are still below 43 degrees F.

Looks like pea and potato time is just about here.