There are plenty of folksy ideas out there about planting peas on St. Patrick’s Day, but out here on the East End, it seems St. Patrick’s Day is usually a gloomy affair, with no green to the world outside, which is usually tinged in frost or covered in snow. It’s hardly gardening weather.
There are plenty of farmers around here who don’t even bother to put their peas in this early when we’ve had the kind of winter we’ve had. If the soil is too wet, the peas just rot in the ground. If the soil is still frozen, it’s just a waste of time. They’re right. Planting peas on St. Patrick’s Day is often just asking for trouble.
But, like a runner needs to hit the road the first day the thermometer climbs above freezing, like a reporter needs to read their daily dose of news, like a junkie goes back for whatever a junkie goes back for, there are some things that one just must do, against one’s better judgement.
This St. Patrick’s Day, I couldn’t even find my gardening implements. I searched through my shed and found two broken snow shovels, a half a bag of ice melt, a masonry trowel, my rusting Weber grill and some cracked terra cotta flower pots.
I grabbed the masonry trowel and walked over to the side of the house where the daffodil shoots were just breaking the soil. If peas planted on St. Patrick’s Day could grow anywhere in my yard, they could grow here. The masonry trowel made the perfect furrow. The peas were plumped up from a brief soaking. I covered the soil and walked away, then hid in the house for two more weeks of bleakness and cold.
Every season is a guessing game. What will grow? What will be eaten by the deer? What strange new pests and fungi will attack your garden? Will the heat kill everything? Will the lettuce bolt before you can eat it?
If your St. Patrick’s Day peas don’t take hold, you can always plant them in early April and still get a good crop before the heat of summer begins. Once the pea shoots break the top of the soil, there’s bound to be something substantial to eat from your own garden long before the heavy yields of summers begin.
No June is complete without a fresh head of garlic and a handful of snap peas, sautéed lightly, in the warm afternoon light, with a few strawberries chasing behind for dessert.
Today, the pea shoots broke the surface of my garden. Spring has arrived.