If you're planning on starting your vegetable garden around St. Patrick's Day as I am, what do you plant first, peas or potatoes? It's a toss-up for me, some years peas, others potatoes.
The soil may still be chilly, and you don't want peas to lie there waiting for it to warm before they germinate, so you could presprout your peas in the house. Neither should be planted until the soil is at least 50 degrees, but I know some of us do it earlier.
Presprouting peas and chitting potatoes helps.
It's really easy to put your seed peas (normal colored, not vivid pink or purple, because those colors mean the seed has been treated with chemicals) in a canning jar, top the opening with a square of nylon net, and fasten it down with the jar's ring. Then fill it with tepid water so that all peas are wet, and pour out the water through the nylon mesh, lay the jar on your counter out of direct sunlight.
Repeat the rinsing of the peas several times a day, always with lukewarm (tepid) water. Within a very few days, you'll see white shoots emerge from each pea seed. Those are roots, and you can plant them outdoors with confidence, firming soil over them.
You can later presprout beans and corn the same way. Always watch out for "treated" seeds though. The chemical that seed companies use is to protect seeds from diseases is pretty harsh stuff, so if you get some of it on your hands, wash them thoroughly with soap and water.
How about chitting your potatoes? Chitting means putting potatoes into the light to let them sprout before planting. If you have potatoes with long white sprouts, forget that. Those sprouts will do no good once planted. If your potato's eyes can form another sprout, your potatoes will grow. By putting potatoes into cool light, not direct sunlight, you'll get green or pinkish sprouts emerging tightly to the potato.
Some people chit their potatoes because they expect a much larger harvest than they would get from potatoes planted without having been chitted. Plant when sprouts are no longer than about one inch long in soil that's warmed to 50 degrees.
There are several good reasons for growing your own food to the extent possible: it's very convenient to plan meals around what is currently ripe or harvestable in the garden; you can eat fresher food than you can get at the grocery store; you know the soil it's been grown in and fertilizers used, and odds are home-grown food is more nutritious than that from the grocery store.
Sprouting potatoes are sustained by the mass of potato they've been planted with, so when you cut up seed pieces, leave at least a cubic inch of potato attached to each eye. A few years ago a seed company sold potato eyes cut with a melon baller, and dashed a lot of gardeners' hopes for potato harvest. That little bit wouldn't have fed the eye long enough to grow a plant.
Some potatoes have few eyes, so plant the whole potato.
When you do cut seed potatoes for planting, you're supposed to do that far enough in advance that the cut sides form a corky surface. I never have, but you're supposed to.
My preferred method of planting potatoes is to carve a deep groove (at least four inches deep) next to a soaker hose segment, then place potato pieces in the groove about every 12 inches. When the plants come up, I mulch heavily around them with lawn clippings from my own yard. As the plants grow I augment that mulch with more clippings.
I intend to have clippings so thick they'll substitute for hilling soil over potatoes, but I'm not always successful. I do have a few green potatoes at harvest time.
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