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GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written August 30, 2015


Having been at this job for over 30 years, I have seen gardening trends come and go. Way back in the 1980s there were numerous local gardeners interested in food gardening, growing both vegetables and tree fruit in their backyards. You could always find a large variety of vegetable transplants available at big box stores, as well as at local nurseries.

In the 1990s things started to change, fewer and fewer gardeners were interested in growing their own produceThe big box stores changed to offering fewer vegetable transplants, instead focusing primarily on colorful annual flowersI am not sure if this happened because gardeners realized that gardens and fruit tree were a lot of work, they had easy access to fresh produce from local farmers markets, their busy lives did not allow much time for gardening, or a combination of all these.

I am happy to say we have now come full circle and gardeners, especially younger gardeners under the age of 50, are interested in food gardening againThe focus is on veggies and herbsA survey taken by Today’s Garden Center indicates that these “youngsters” say gardening gives them a sense of accomplishment, allows them to become more self sufficient and have more control over the safety of their food, and provides a way to get children outside and teach them about nature. Wonderful!

Another thing to know about younger gardeners is their interest in food and cookingThere is a proliferation of television cooking shows that are enjoyed by both young adults and older folks like meBecause the All-America Selections (AAS) organization has noticed that cooking fresh foods is “trending,” they plan to market their 2016 winning herb and vegetable selections with five videos that demonstrate cooking techniques.

With the home garden focus back on vegetables, many of the big seed companies are strongly marketing their new vegetable varieties, especially ones with more compact growth habits that are easier to fit into the smaller gardens of today’s gardeners. These are a few that have already hit the market or will be arriving next year:

Basil ‘Docle Fresca’( is an AAS 2015 winner that is a “new and better” compact Genovese basil plant with sweet tender leaves and growing only 10 to 14 inches tallIt is drought tolerant and a good container plant

Pea ‘Masterpiece’ ( a pea that Burpee calls a “triple treat” with edible tendrils, pods, and peasGrowing up to 30 inches tall and 32 inches wide, these pretty peas plants work well in containers and limited-space gardens

Kale ‘Simply Salad Kale Storm’ (, is a mix of salad kales that are slow to boltThe seed combined into single pellets is a mix of different leaf textures and colorsNot only will this work well as fall cool-season crop for container growing, it will also serve as an attractive ornamental during the fall months

Tomato Heirloom Marriage Series (PanAmerican Seed) is a series of tomato hybrids that are the results of crosses between two heirloom varieties to create an F1 hybrid variety, “marrying” the best characteristics of each parent for improved performance in the gardenOne already available (along with others) is ‘Big Brandy’ whose parents are ‘Big Dwarf’ and ‘Brandywine’ Coming in 2016 is ‘Marzinera’, a cross between ‘San Marzano’(my new favorite tomato) and ‘Cream Sausage.’

Zucchini ‘Brice’ (no retail seller available ) is a zucchini that produces 3 to 4 inch light green round fruit on compact plants with attractive mottled leavesIt is more manageable than many zucchini and is great for container or limited-space gardeningThe fruit can be hollowed out for stuffingYummy!

This season isn’t even over yet and I am thinking about next year. Whoa!


written by Marianne C. Ophardt WSU Extension Faculty for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA The National Garden Bureau is celebrating 2004 as the “Year of the Pea”. Every year the bureau recognizes one vegetable and one flower with this special recognition. I must admit the designation of the “Year of the Pea” makes me giggle a bit, but this venerable crop is one that deserves some attention. Peas have been in cultivation for centuries, but no one knows for sure just when man started taming this vining palate pleaser. Peas have been found by archaeologists in tombs dating back to 1450 B.C. at Troy and Thebes. Records indicate that peas were already part of human diets as early as 3000 B.C. Chinese legends say that emperor Shen Nung, the “Father of Chinese Agriculture”, discovered the pea nearly 5000 years ago. Peas definitely were a useful crop. They could be dried and kept almost indefinitely, making them a valuable staple of many diets. During the Middle Ages, peas were stored, dried, and used as insurance against hunger when food shortages or famine might threaten. English colonists took peas with them when they sailed off to America. In fact, they were one of the first crops planted in their new gardens and farms. For many years peas were harvested and dried for eating at a later date. It wasn

t until much later that the garden pea was developed and peas were prepared and eaten as a fresh green vegetable. By the late 17 th century, American colonists first started eating fresh green garden or “English peas”. Never satisfied with the status quo, plant breeders worked to create better and better peas. Early breeding efforts involved standard or shelling peas with wrinkled seeds. Some of the best known pea cultivars included ‘Little Gem

offered in the 1888 Burpee Seeds catalog and ‘American Wonder

, introduced in 1876. ‘Telephone

was introduced in the 1870

s and was promoted for its sweetness and productivity. ‘Telephone

originated in England and was later introduced to the US in the early 1880

s. It remained one of the more popular pea cultivars until the 1930

s . In 1908, England also introduced ‘Little Marvel

. Over the years, plant breeders have worked hard to improve pea vigor, yields, disease resistance, flavor, and keeping qualities. They have had admirable success. However, lightning struck the pea world in 1970 when one pea breeder, Dr. Calvin Lamborn, discovered a rather unusual pea in his plantings. Lamborn used this different pea, later named a snap pea, in his breeding efforts. In 1979 ‘Sugar Snap

, the first snap pea, was introduced to the gardening market. What a difference! The pods of this new sugar snap pea were sweet and tender. Peas didn

t need to be shelled. Picked at the right time in the immature stage, this pea could be eaten raw in the garden or tossed into fresh salads. They were also great lightly cooked. Allowed to mature, the sugar snap peas could also be shelled and eaten like regular garden peas. Today, gardeners have three main types of peas available to them for planting. There is the English or garden pea with its pods that are allowed to become fully ripe and plump. Then the pods are opened and the peas removed. This process is called “shelling”. Many gardeners have tales of shelling peas on their porch or in the backyard when they were youngsters. However, many gardeners today opt for the tasty pods of snap peas. These can be eaten in the immature stage without shelling or they can be allowed to mature on the vine and then shelled. Snow peas are the third type of pea. These originated in Asia where they

ve been grown for centuries. These peas have flat edible pods. It

s thought that the snap pea may have been the result of an unplanned cross between a snow pea and an English pea. Peas can be grown in area gardens, but they must be started early. They

re a cool season crop that grows best in the garden before the weather turns hot. Many gardeners plant their peas as soon as they can get in the garden in very early spring… when they can work the soil and when the soil temperature is above 40 degrees. In fact, quite a few gardeners try to have their peas planted by St. Patrick

s Day on March 17. That may be a bit early some years. Perhaps a better planting date to work with is planting peas four weeks before the last expected frost. That would be about April Fool

s Day for us. Don

t procrastinate though, or you

ll miss your chance to realize a good crop of this tasty green veggie that

s a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, folic acid, and protein. Peas stop growing and producing when the weather turns warm. If you don

t want to get out in the garden that early or are restricted to growing vegetables in containers, don

t despair. Peas can be grown in large containers that are at least 12 to 24 inches in diameter… a half barrel is great. A good cultivar for containers is ‘Sugar Ann

, bred for growing in containers. She is a short, bushy snap pea that

s ready for picking about 56 days after planting. Place several two to three-foot branches or bamboo poles in the container to help the vines climb a bit,. To encourage good growth, fertilize your container peas once or twice with a low nitrogen fertilizer. After you harvest the peas in two months, they can be replaced with a warm season crop, such as patio tomatoes. Visitors to the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick might have wondered why the peas in the vegetable garden looked so bad last year. That

s because they had a rather serious pest problem… quail. Quail just love these tender vines, especially since they

re growing early in the season when other types of food aren

t readily available. These cute birds wreak havoc on peas in many local gardens. If you have a quail problem, you can try planting your peas under row cover fabric. But once they grow too tall, you

ll have to take the fabric off. Then you

ll have to consider various ways to scare the birds away. Tips on Growing Peas: There are two kinds of garden peas, those with wrinkled seeds and those with smooth seeds. The smooth-seeded ones have higher starch levels than the wrinkled-seeded kinds. The smooth- seeded types are used for drying and making soup. The wrinkle-seeded kinds are generally sweeter and are used fresh or for freezing. These differences were duly noted by George Mendel who did some of his first genetics experiments crossing wrinkled and smooth peas. When selecting varieties or cultivars of peas for growing in the garden, you

ll find that there are both climbing and bushier low-growing cultivars. Depending on which cultivars you select, you may need to provide the support of a trellis or poles. If you don

t want ones that require any or much support, consider ‘Novella

which is a semi-leafless green pea with self-supporting vines, not requiring poles or a trellis for climbing. It grows only to a height of 18 to 20 inches. Other semi-leafless garden peas include ‘Canoe

and ‘Greensage

. ‘Sugar Lace

is a stringless sugar snap pea with self-supporting plants. With our often short period of cool spring weather you may want to consider planting a heat resistant cultivar of peas, such as Wando. Wando is also a good choice if you get started a little late planting your peas. If you

re growing garden peas, plan on cooking and eating them immediately after harvesting and shelling. That

s because, their sugar content and eating quality declines very quickly after harvesting. However, snow pea pods can be harvested and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a week or two with only a slight drop in quality.

Published: 1/24/2004 2:34 PM



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