Slow Peas

Peas flowers

Peas flowers

Original Image

In early February I planted some Little Marvel peas. These are, nominally, a 63 days peas per the wiki. Well, that was about 60 days ago…

They have sulked in the dark under the clouds. Yes, they sprouted on time, and then it got colder and darker again and they stayed small little plants. Waiting…

This last week or so has been pleasant and sunny. Still a bit on the cool side, but sunny. The plants of shot up.

As of today, I have my first peas flower! (They are white, unlike the snow pea flower in the picture up top)

Yeah, it’s running a couple of weeks late. My peas are telling me it has been more cloudy than usual…

Plant a garden. listen to it. It has much wisdom to share, and it never lies…

KSJC Temp and Winds Feb 2011 to April 2011

KSJC Temp and Winds Feb 2011 to April 2011

You can see the sunny times as temperature rises and the cloudy times as those times when the temp doesn’t get off the bottom. Planted in the first warm rise in February and they sprouted, grew to small size in the middle warm sunny rise, then the sulked, then grew to full size in the last one. With the rise of barometric pressure and today being sunny (as was yesterday) I’ve not got the first flower. A few more weeks like this, I’ll have peas. Slow peas, but still…

We need to watch clouds more closely, even for ‘cool season plants’ like peas, if we are to predict crop production properly.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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13 Responses to Slow Peas

  1. R. de Haan says:

    You’re peas are doing better than mine.
    I planted the seeds first week of march and they just started to sprout. The biggest is 3 cm long.

    It must be the weather or the cats urinating.

    Everything is late and temperatures go from really warm to exceptionally cold with freezing nights.

    For example, yesterday we had sunny weather, 22 degrees Celsius. Today we have 12 degrees Celsius and night frost.

    The previous month and the first week of April we had night frosts every day.

    And clouds…. don’t talk about it. 6 days clouds and 1 day sunny spells. We had good weather on Friday, Saturday and Sunday which must have triggered the beans to start growing but for the remainder of the week…
    I think the beans will be sorry for sticking their necks out.

  2. Earle Williams says:


    When did you move to the Pacific Northwest?

    Looks like a ‘nice day’ in Juneau. ;-)

  3. Ian Beale says:

    Not quite on gardening but my punt for our coming winter is “More firewood”

    We’ve had blankets on and used most of the summer (which is supposed to be hot and getting hotter!)

    And the lizards have only warmed up enough to raise a good trot

  4. Interesting Connections says:

    We still seem to be having some seriously cool weather with a fair amount of cloud cover in the Bay Area.

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ian Beale:

    Well, If I had my way, I’d have about a 1 acre wood lot planted in a mix of Eucalyptus and Cottonwood…

    Both grow darned fast …

    and the cottonwood even do OK if it says on the cool side ;-)

    @Earl Williams:

    Yeah, you noticed, eh? For days on end we track the “normal low” and never warm up… Those low barometric times with wind gusts tend to be the overcast and / or raining times too.

    It is very much like a PNW weather set…

    Well, I always told the Mrs. that I wanted to move to Portland…

    @R. de Haan:

    That’s the “loopy jet stream” or Rosbey Waves.

    We’ve gone back to the ’50s / ’60s loopy jet stream and left behind that ’80s / ’90s ‘flat jet stream’.

    So we’re back in that ‘every couple of weeks, a swap’ hot for cold style of weather I remember from oh so long ago…

    I had some beans in a “six pack” to sprout. They sprouted during the warm days, then stopped growing. I’ve brought them inside and they are in a tray under a lamp near my desk. 3 days later they have just started to decide the cold is not coming back and maybe it’s save to continue shedding the seed coats… (They are about 1/2 out of the dirt, with the seed about 3/4 still inside the coat).

    Somehow they sense the cold and do a “pause” for a few days to see if it will really warm up again or not.

    This makes an odd kind of sense. I’ve got some beans that I grew to about 15 cm tall, then planted out a couple of weeks back. Basically just holding their own. Growing a tiny bit, but only enough to keep up with whatever bug is putting the occasional small hole in the leaves. So as an old leaf gets too “moth eaten” and dies, it has just barely been replaced. Normally, they would be adding leaves so fast the odd one getting chewed just didn’t matter.

    Then the predatory bugs would finish off the other bugs and I’m in business.

    Now? Not a wasp in sight, nor a lady bug. They are waiting for warmer weather too, it would seem.

    Complete waste of time to have planted them out. (And they are a purple pod bean that are known for being more cold tollerant… Not that the Cherokee Trail Of Tears beans I brought in for sulking are that cold sensitive, but the purple pods are known for sprouting in early cold soils…)

    At any rate, my garden is quite clearly telling me it is cold, and not very sunny… Even the radishes have been at it for 60 days and I’ve got nothing big enough to eat. Some leaves, yeah, but no roots. They, too, are waiting for enough sun to make excess fuel for storage…

    @Interesting Connections:

    So it’s cold, and not very sunny, and the plants know it.

    Maybe we could buy a garden plot for NASA and CRU and they could ‘get clue’ from tending it…

  6. boballab says:

    Here on the Eastern Shore or Maryland we have finally stopped having nights that have dropped below freezing at least once a week. However Accuweather is forecasting a low of 33°F for Sunday night the 17th. So far the farmers are way behind schedule planting just like last year but for a different reason. Last year the fields were flooded after all the snow we had, this year its the cold with rain every other day.

    Luckily I should be able to get my Green Beans, Onions, Potatoes, Radishes and Leaf lettuce in this week. Still unsure about the tomatoes I got started indoors since most days it only gets to the mid 50’s with lows in the low 40’s.

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    I’d say let the tomatoes have more hothouse time if you can. Pot them on if they need it, but putting a tomato out in 50/40 F is just going to stop it from growing.

    Beans need soil over 50F to sprout (except the purple pod types) so I’d watch them too…

    My potatoes are doing fine and the radishes are slow, but growing. Onions (green onions) look OK, but not very fast, then again, onions never are very fast…

  8. PhilJourdan says:

    Tomatos are quirky fellows. They will bear fruit (LOTS of it) as long as the night time lows stay above 55 farenheit. So while ours are late to bloom (we are still getting mostly 40s degree nights), they last until the first hard freeze. And every time you get a nice fall warm up, out comes more tomatos!

    I just built my wife a 24×8 box that we are putting top soil in. Apparently her keg buckets (4) last year are just not enough for her liking. It is my neighbors fault. He brought us some great vegetables from his garden last year and my wife wants her own!

  9. E.M.Smith says:


    We have become addicted to Ronde du Nice squash. Also called 8-Ball or Baby Round.

    These are like a zucchini only a small sphere instead of a tube. At about the size of a que ball (or 8-ball) they are just wonderful. A plant takes about a 1 square foot area (though the leaves can spread out to about 2 foot on a side. I’ve also found that one plant serves 2 people. 2 plants serve a family and you don’t want to plant 4 or more ;-)

    As a “Darwin’s Garden” ™ test, I planted 5 of them in a “tub” that is one of those plastic garden pots. About 1.5 foot diameter at the base. About 2 foot at the top. They all produced and I had more squash than we could eat (even from very crowded stressed plants.

    The seeds from the “middle plant” that struggled the most (they were in a dice 5 spot pattern) were saved. They are what I’m starting / planting now. That is 2008 ascension or 3 year old seed. Still getting nearly 100% germination even not stored in the freezer.

    At full size mature, the fruit is about 1 liter in volume (about 6 inches in diameter for a big one) so even a single tub with one squash plant has room to produce your own seeds…

    The seed packet I started from (2001 year) states that they are a 45 day to maturity plant. So if you start them indoors in a “six pack” or small pots, and that takes 2 weeks, you’ve basically got 1 month between “planting out” and “first harvest”. They then continue to produce as long as the weather holds and they don’t frost.

    I have an emotional preference for large trailing vines with colored squash on them (like yellow zucchini or yellow straight neck – as I can find the fruit better ;-) BUT these little guys have won me over.

    First up. Fastest to produce. Just the right size for one or two people (so want a bit of zucchini, pick just the size needed for you or you and spouse, no 1/2 a zucchini left over…) and a very nice flavor with a tender skin.

    So I find myself eating these guys while I’m still waiting for the “Big Uns” to finally quit making leaves and get to work… and when they finally DO make some squash, I’m wonding why I bothered as I’ve got all I need from the Baby Round…

    At any rate, if you are doing “small space gardening” in tubs, this is the squash for you, no doubt about it.

    This link has the “Baby Round” variation. While they say “not recommended” to start indoors, that IMHO is just because they pop up so fast and grow so quick that you need to start them in a modest sized pot or expect to plant them out in about a week, so they probably don’t see the benefit. If shooting for “absolute first” plants, it still makes sense.

    Besides, once you have started your own seed saving program, just one of these squash run to seed is a several year supply of seeds, so if you ‘plant a few out early’ and an early frost takes them, so what? (And by the end of the season you will be happy to let the plant “keep one” and have it run to maturity to slow down the production rate of new squash…)

    Here is the 8-ball variation:

    It is an F1 hybrid, so it will give more variable results of you save the seeds and will take some ‘selection’ over time to stabilze the cross. It also claims a 40 day to maturity time so it’s a bit faster. I did grow them one year and they are fast… but the skin is a bit thicker than on the Baby Round / Ronde du Nice. Frankly, for all of 5 days, I’ll take the French quality… You will note it also has a darker color.

    Oh, and a tub of “Allium Fistulosum” green onions becomes a perpetual onion patch. Need some green onions for a salad? No need to yank up the whole thing, just a snip or two with the sissors and it will grow more!

    It comes in a few varieties (and you must make sure it IS that species as many times common onions are sold as “bunching onions” or “green onions” and they are not this perennial green onion…)

    Even a red skin variety (BTW, this is a GREAT seed company):

    they have a great variety of asian seeds and put lots into their packets. You will find folks on Ebay selling Red Beard seeds for a couple of bucks for “25 seeds”, their packet says aprox. 1100 – 1250 seeds / packet for $3.49 (keep the excess in a jar in the freezer and the seeds keep for years).

    So with a small ‘lettuce box’, a green onion box, and a squash tub, you are well on your way to a salad and vegetable saute … just a thought…

  10. PhilJourdan says:

    Hmmm…Squash! I am the weird kid who loved it as a kid. Those 8 balls look like a perfect started, and given the limited space (8×24 is not a lot of space), perfect to go with the tomatoes!

    With a few Anaheim Peppers – and I have a meal that fits the doctor’s order!

    Our planting season starts this week (technically the 15th – tax day), so I will let them grow in the ground. And of course save the seeds. great tips and squash!

  11. E.M.Smith says:


    Well, if you love it, then uprate my “plants serve” metric by 2!

    So “2 plants” for you and Mrs…

    Personally, I ususally plant 4 to 6 (as I often start a “six pack”) and then thin them as I get tired of the “flush” and the freezer fills with blanched squash… (cut in chunks, or thick slices, blanch 2 minutes in boiling water, ice water plunge for a few minutes, drain for a couple of minutes in a colandar, fill quart baggies to about a 1 inch thickness when on their side, and into the freezer. Keeps a few months, so I usually do that about July when I’m tiring of squash and have too many, then cut back to 1/2 the plants and put in some “fall vegetables” in the spaces… About December we start using the frozen stuff and that gets me to February when I start thinking of starting some 6 packs for an early planting ;-) If I had a bigger freezer I’d make it all winter… but i digress…

    FWIW, a Roma tomato gives a heck of a lot in a very small space and I was surprised at how good they are “out of hand”. They are NOT just a ‘paste’ tomato! They also produced in my cool summer last year when others just sulked… but if you like salads, the “Sweet 100” makes a zillion little marble sized sweet things that are just God’s Gift on a salad…

    Oh, and remember that the 8-ball is an F1 hybrid, so the Ronde du Nice or the Baby Round is easier for seed saving. (You CAN save seeds from a hybrid, but it takes about 4 to 6 generations to ‘stabilze the hybrid’ and until that time you will get some ‘off type’ from each planting. That means “start 8 to 12 and thin back to 2 or 4 that are the kind you want when you see what fruit they make”.

    It’s also that case that as these are a “Pepo” type squash, they can ‘cross’ with other Pepo types. So a neighbor 2 doors down growing a “Patty Pan” or a “Yellow Zucchini” can give you some “interesting” results if the bees wander… I’ve got a very interesting pear shaped lime colored squash from a “Baby Round x Patty Pan” cross… it’s about like an 8-Ball in size, but a light lime color and it is a pear shape, with a wobbly but not patty pan profile… Taste is great and it grows very well. Some years I plant it out as I attempt to stablize it too… (The result of planting a Patty Pan right next to a Baby Round… odds go down with distance, so a neighbor 100 yards away is almost zero risk of accidental crossing).

    At any rate, the typical seed packet has more seeds than you will use in a few years, so just put the leftovers into a jar in the freezer and they will be usable for several years. (I’ve got an Italian Cocozelle that I plant out once a decade or so for seed saving purposes… Its a great plant, but likes it’s space…) Then if you start throwing “off type” plants from your saved seeds, you just drop back one ascension in the freezer… repeat until you are back at the “foundation seed stock” if need be. (I’ve never had to go more than one ascension back and I’m sloppy about who gets planted near what… as I’m interested in the off types and “mules”…)

    A quart jar can hold more seeds than I can use in a half decade, so it’s not a large imposition. Also, you can get little yellow “coin envelopes” that are great for seed packets. I use the “#1 Coin” at 2 1/4 inch x 3 1/2 inch for most things. Bought a box of 500 for “not much” many years ago and I’m about 1/2 of the way through it… Each packet gets dated, what’s in it, special notes (like “grown near patty pan”…) and “1 of 5, 2 of 5, …”. For things like Runner Beans (seeds like a big lima) I’ll just put them in an old jar in the freezer. 1 cup is a multi year supply, though ;-)

    Typically I have a 1 quart “wide mouth mason jar” that is my working seed stock. It is in the fridge. Things to be planted in any given year / season get “promoted” from the freezer into that jar to warm (without absorbing moisture from the air as they warm…). Then as I get the urge to plant something, it gets pulled from the fridge and particular packets selected. End of planting season, any ‘left overs’ go back to a freezer jar with a ‘defrosted xxx times’ note…

    It’s not as complicated as it sounds. It also cuts seed costs to nearly nothing even if you don’t save your own seeds. Heat, air, and moisture are what kills seeds. Keep them cold, dry (the jar) and away from air (the jar again) and they last much much longer…

    Eventually the year comes when a “packet” has failure to sprout in the starting 6-packs. Not a big deal as I’m usually doing ‘starts’ way ahead of when I can really plant them out. (Just can’t wait and want to play in that garden!) When that happens, I pitch that packet (or if it’s a rare set, I’ll try to germinate them all in one bed and recover the 5% that are still viable…) and move on to the next newer, or next less thaw cycles, packet.

    The end result is that I’ve not bought seeds for a lot of things in a decade or two (and most of what I have bought have been to put interesting varieties into the seed archive freezer…).

    Different seeds have different durabilities to saving. I’ve got some Shogun Turnips where I did a ‘mass germination’ as the packet said “6 / 2000 harvest, from old seed ’93. These were gown, by me, in 1993, then sat for 7 years and planted again in 2000. Now it’s 11 years later. I figured “probably toast” as most of that time they were ‘overflow’ in the seed fridge, not freezer… Nearly 100% germination… Now I’ve got an overcrowded flat of turnips to deal with ;-) Onions are nominally good 1 year only. I’ve had them sprout 4 years+ after feezing. (not done longer tests). Mung beans are interesting too. I’ve some of them and some lentils that have only had a grow out once every 16 years(!). NOT a recomended schedule!

    At the same time, my “Darwins Cocozelle” that was a runted plant grown under a corn cover and nibbled by bunnies, shaded by beans, in 2008 has had seeds that were not matured enough. They are a 100% failed germination. Not the storage that was the issue, just that I didn’t let the fruit ripen enough before harvesting the seeds. (Pick it, then let it set a couple of months, AFTER the plant has declared it ‘done’…)

    At any rate “seed saving” is a bit of a passion for me. So “any questions” feel free to holler…

    (General rule: The bigger the seed, the longer it keeps. Corn, beans, squash keep a long time, onions not so much. There are exceptions, though, like those turnips and other brassicas…)

    Oh, and I start things in 6-packs or small pots if at all possible for the simple reasons that:

    1) It maximized total production from my small grow out area.

    2) It lets me avoid tying up a square of dirt with “dud” seeds.

    3) If avoids “critters” getting the seedlings (birds here just love young bean sprouts and slugs / snails will mow down a row of young brassicas in one night – big plants not so much… and until the possums come by to clean up the snails that can be an issue. The ‘Possums love snales, BTW. Since one moved under my shed I’ve had no snail problems…. Worth the occasional bit of fruit it takes to keep the snails gone.

    4) I get to play more and more often ;-)

    5) I have some “green” to watch in my office. ;-)

    6) The “soil” is always about 72 so optimal for starting. In the garden it can take a lot longer to convince the seeds to ‘break’ and start growing. This gives me about a week or two more growing season just there. That gets ADDED to the time ahead of last frost date… (i.e. if I planted outside at last frost AND start a batch in 6-packs inside, the 6-packs will sprout first and grow bigger by about 1 to 2 weeks worth for many seeds; so planted from pots AT last frost gives me a ‘double dip’ on speed up.)

    That has to be tempered by the fact that if you leave them too long in the pots they can be root bound and stunted… so don’t let them spend too long in the pots indoors…

    FWIW I use an old “cat litter tray” as a bottom and just set the pots in it. I water by putting about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in the bottom of the tray. That keeps the soil evenly moist all the time and with no top disturbance. With even water and even heat, near a window and with my “Daylight fluorescent” overhead into the evening, well, things sprout really well… The only real “catch” is that some things will get long and spindly unless they get some UV to tell them they are above the competiion. SO you either need a “Lizzard light” to tell them “Stop, get bushy” or set the tray out in the afternoon sun when you get a warm day. Radishes are very much that way. I think some squashes too. Beans didn’t seem to care, nor did corn.

    At any rate, I figure my “starter box” gives me about a 1 month longer season per crop and as I have a 3 or 4 crop climate, that’s 3 or 4 more months of effective growing…. That adds up to a lot if you have a small space to work in. (Right now I’ve got 6 ‘squares’ in production. That’s 6 x 4′ x4′ = 96 sq. feet. About a 3 x 32 foot “row” if done as rows. Not exactly large. I’d have more, but 4 squares have no fencing and they are ‘bunny land’ ;-) Maybe I’ll buy some more fence this year…

    So if you get really “into it” having a “starting box” is a really good idea. And fun too…

  12. PhilJourdan says:

    Fascinating what you run into when reading blogs! great advice on the 6 packs and cat pans! As we get into it more, those are a must (we have 7 cats, so the pans are no problem – as long as the cats know they are not potty boxes!).

    And the Possum! never thought of that. We have one who visits on occassion (I can tell as the cat food is gone and the water is not dirty). When the water is dirty, that means it is the coons that are clearning the dishes. I will have to see about keeping the possums happy. The cats just think they are cousins and neither the possums or coons bother the cats and vice versa (we avoid the coons due to a high incidence of rabies around here, but they usually come only at night – except that kit one year).

    On the tomatoes, we have that one down. Around here we have Hanover Tomatoes and that is all we grow! It is the best tasting tomato you have ever eaten! Even my grandmother – a life long cafeteria manager and Californian – thought she knew tomatoes until she tasted one of these. They start producing around July 1 and from July through mid September you can get them cheap (as they are prolific).

    Not too good on the canning though. For that you would want a different tomato as Hanovers have a lot of acid in them. But there are usually not a lot for canning left anyway.

    Thanks for all the advice. I will do the freezer thing with the seeds, and yes a few of those coin bags seem to be just the ticket. We will have to play with the squash as you have given us a lot of options there, so I guess we will try a few this year and then next and so forth until we figure out the best ones for us. I suspect my little box is going to grow (we have a lot of room – but most of it is shaded as we have a lot of trees).

    The reason my wife used buckets in the past was because of the trees (the only sunny spot was the patio/driveway). However we lost a huge River Birch tree last year (just fell down! No storm), so that opened up a large area of the yard to the sun, and that is where the box went. in addition, the utility company topped a nice maple – and I do not think it is going to recover (a shame – I love Maples). So we can expand if I have to take that one out this year.

    Thanks again! It is fun to grow your own food (as long as it is not your job), and of course the rewards are self explanatory. ;)

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    You are most welcome!

    About 20 years back my neighbor planted 3 redwood trees on the property line to my south. He moved away 2 years later…

    Now I’ve got a giant “mid day” shade pendulum that sweeps the house, garden, everything (they grow VERY fast…).

    I’d complain that I’ve had to learn more “shade gardening”, except that it keeps the house cool mid summer…. and the spouse likes that…

    Oh well, more peas and kale and turnips, less corn and tomatoes… ;-)

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