|Sugar Snap Peas - note the dragon claws prized in Hong Kong.|
I am dying to plant all the seeds I have, but a look ahead says that peas are the only option for now. Peas love the cold and tolerate snow on them. That is why LeSeur, near Minneapolis, is famous for peas. Just pronounce the name right. LaSoor, not LaSewer Peas.
Sugar snap or snow peas can be grown to maturity with the peas shucked from the pods, but that is crazy. Perhaps this year I will grow enough to get to the stove and cook - for once. They are great raw and--like corn--lose flavor over time. The packages of pea seeds are out and ready for planting.
With seeds, the key is soil temperature. Peas love the cold and hate the heat, so they are perfect for the itchy gardener who has to get something going in the early spring. I have shocked gardeners with my peas growing in and through the snow. The Creator has given us a variety of plants so we can have food throughout the seasons.
And yes, even a pea-picker can get tired of his favorite vegetable, as we proved when I grew three pounds of pea seeds in Midland. Longing turned to loathing, and we switched to beans. We gave the dragon claws (tendrils) to our members from Hong Kong, who told us, "Peas are grown only for the dragon claws in Hong Kong. Are you sure we can have two grocery bags?"
Cutting the dragon claw tendrils meant even more peas grew, because fruiting plants will often grow more flowers and fruit again once the seed container is picked. Thus tomatoes, beans, and many fruits keep flowering - roses too. But not corn. One stalk - two ears.
I continue to entertain myself with garden follies published here, there, and everywhere. The Farmers Almanac has suggestions on plant care, such as spreading wood ashes, fertilizer, etc. Like their weather reports, their planting directions are sufficiently broad to include everything, from fertilizer to compost.
At Walmart I saw fertilizer in the woe-begone garden center. Plants, seeds, and mulch will not arrive in January. The lonely lady at the register said, "We have a lot of cold night left."
The fertilizer was rated 10-0-10. What? The old standby was 10-10-10 or another combination of Zen and modern chemistry. The package said- "To protect the water table from phosphorous pollution..." Now the light goes on. Inorganic fertilizer has a minor effect and passes on to pollute the water table, where time and creatures overbalance the nutrition and produce algae blooms, which use up oxygen, which suffocate fish, etc.
Ho ho. I remember books scolding the gardener for using manure or compost with only a 1-1-1 rating - like rating Lutheran worship services by how many sub-woofers are in the sound system.
Here is the difference. Creation gardening means the organic matter on top is drawn into the soil by God's creatures and kept in the top twelves inches of earth.
Soil fungi are usually branched and quite capable of gathering organic compounds from different sources simultaneously. Once the nutrient material is inside the cellular membrane, it is transported back through the network of fungal hyphae that often ends at the root of a plant, where some fungi trade for exudates. Thus the same fungus can extend hyphae downward and outward, absorbing several crucial nutrients— phosphorus, copper, zinc, iron, nitrogen— as well as water.
In the case of phosphorus , for example, the propensity of fungi to gather and transport it over distances is truly remarkable .
This mineral is almost always chemically locked up in soils; even when it is applied as fertilizer, phosphorus becomes unavailable to plants within seconds. Not only do fungi seek out this necessary plant nutrient, but they have the ability to free it from its chemical and physical bonds. Then they transport their quarry back to plant roots, where the phosphorus is absorbed and utilized.
Don’t forget that in those instances where a fungus brings food back to a plant root tip, it was attracted to that plant by the plant’s exudates. Fungi are good, but the plant is in control.
Fungi and plant-available nitrogen
Some fungi trade nutrients for exudates, but most often nutrients are released as waste after they are consumed by fungi or when the fungi die and are decayed. Much of what is released is nitrogen.
Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 906-912). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
This means the soil has been building fungi all winter, under the wood, leaves, and newspapers, ready to feed the plants I grow. We used to say, "Look beans, and peas and legumes build usable nitrogen in the soil through those nodules on the roots. Buy some fungi and put it on the seeds before planting, to make sure that happens. We have to fix nitrogen (provide usable nitrogen)."
But this is true, one way or another, with all plants. Fungi feed and water them in exchange for carbon.
Here is another bit of humor from the chemical gardeners. "Ach. Leaves are not much good for compost. They are mostly carbon. Use them if you must."
Mostly carbon? What do the the fungi crave - carbon. They give the plant what it wants in return for carbon.
And wood - absorbs nitrogen. "Watch out when adding wood to soil. In the long run it is good, but in the short run, it absorbs nitrogen." Thus the old gardening books and current gardening humor books.
Fellow gardeners, what have we learned about chemicals from Teaming With Microbes? They move around. In organic or Creation gardening, they do not leave but stay, traveling from creature to creature.
Wood mulch and sawdust absorb nitrogen to help in decomposition, and then return the nitrogen as the rotting matures. This is another way of saying the fungi handle the transactions, rotting the wood for us, turning wood into nutrition, and trapping the useful chemicals in the soil.