Sping 2014 - Taste of the Garden
Do you garden? Or do you dream about it? Whether you start with one item or mix a few together, you don’t need to be an expert to dig right in. To get you started, WakeMed dietitians, local farmers and chefs will weigh in on one featured item in upcoming issues of Families First.
Bennie Glenn, farmer and owner of Genesis Farm in Holly Springs, recommends families plant snap peas in late March or early April once the land has dried out from the winter. They will grow through the spring and phase out in June.
“Children love to watch garden peas grow, and they will probably eat them right off the vine,” said Farmer Bennie. “The best part is that all you really need to get started is seeds and a good mix of soil.”
Soil & Seeds
If you have red clay, make sure it is dry before you plant any seeds. It shouldn’t be muddy.
Farmer Bennie suggests mixing in some other soil and starting with a couple inches of compost on top. Farmer Bennie recommends sourcing the seeds locally at a hardware or garden store. Look for Sugar Snap or Sugar Ann peas. “They’re both really sweet, and kids seem to love them!”
If it is your first time growing snap peas, just try a single row. If you want more, plant a double row 5 inches apart. Make a mound for each row and plant seeds about 1 to 2 inches apart. In 7 to 10 days after planting seeds, you should start seeing growth.
Add a layer of mulch on top of the compost after you plant the seeds. This will help keep in moisture and suppress weed or grass growth. “Mulch is also a natural fertilizer,” said Farmer Bennie. “A pile of old leaves can be turned into great mulch.” He also recommends adding one sheet of newspaper under the mulch to prevent grass from springing up. “Don’t use Roundup®,” said Farmer Bennie. “It spoils the soil.”
Watch for Blooms
Once the vines are approximately 24 inches, you should begin to see white or pink-colored blossoms. The vines might continue to grow about 6 to 7 more inches after this stage. About 3 to 4 days after you see blossoms, the pea pods should start growing.
Chart Their Growth
Mix in some math lessons by having your children measure as you go. Start with letting them measure the stakes and then keep a chart of how fast the peas grow. Measure the vines and even measure the peas.
As the vine grows, use string or strips of old fabric or string to tie them to the stakes and give them a little support. “You might lose some if you let them rest on the ground,” said Farmer Bennie. “Wait until the vines are approximately 18 inches long until you try to stake them.” If you do it too early, the vines will be tender and may break.
Some people like to eat snap peas when they are really small and sweet, but you can leave them on the vine until they are larger. It is best to pick them before you can really see the seeds inside the pod. If you get busy and forget, you can still use them, but Farmer Bennie recommends cooking them once they start to turn white. They will still have some sweetness, but they start to get starchy in the later stage of growth.
“Sugar Snap peas are high in vitamin C and are a good source of vitamin K and fiber,” said Amy Bowen, WakeMed dietitian. “After a winter of soups and hearty cooked meals, they can be the perfect fresh, uncooked veggie to add to almost anything.” You can eat the whole pod – just snap off the top, pull off the string and enjoy the rest!
Try these ideas to mix them into your family’s meals:
- Toss them in a salad
- Dip them instead of chips
- Pack them for a park snack
- Use them as a pretty green garnish
- Lightly steam them
- Add them to a healthy stir fry
Water at Night
Be sure to water a couple times a week if it is really dry and hasn’t rained. “The evening is the best time to water,” said Farmer Bennie. “This is a good family activity after dinner or just before bed.” Lightly spray from a hose or sprinkle from a watering can. Ask your kids to make a calendar and help you keep track of the watering days. Remember you don’t need to water if it has rained recently. As the vines age, you may notice a little mildew on them, and that indicates the vine is probably starting to die off. Once you’ve harvested the last peas, you can work the vines back into the ground. Just pull them up and let them deteriorate back into your soil.
Meet Farmer Bennie
If you want to visit the farm and talk to Farmer Bennie, please call in advance. Genesis Farm, 919-552-3401.
Twine for the Vines
Give your vines a place to grow! Place stakes about 2 feet apart and run twine every 6 inches high between stakes. “It should look like a ladder,” said Farmer Bennie. “You can use sticks you collect from your yard and scraps of rope, old shoelaces or some basic twine.”
Stake the vines to grow approximately 3 feet tall, and make sure your stick is 8 inches into the ground for stability.