Planting by the signs

Plowing ground

There are those who advocate plowing ground — as in preparing your garden — during January or February, no matter how wet the ground may be. One of those advocates was my mentor, the late Buford Van Meter.

Mr. Van Meter said “even if the water follows you down the furrow” there’s no fear of the ground becoming cloddy when it dries, which is what one would normally expect of ground plowed when it’s wet. Chances are, the freezing and thawing of the ground will negate any ill effects from the wet soil being disturbed — but then we need more freezing weather like we’ve had this week!

I’ve only tried it once when a friend plowed our garden at the end of February. There were no problems, but the ground wasn’t very wet either. Mr. Van Meter cautioned, however, to get it done before March and I would concur: You do not want to risk plowing wet ground — unless it’s in January or  February — lest you pay a high price with a cloddy garden all summer.

And of course, this “plowing suggestion” applies to gardens of any size and with the work being done by any device like a roto-tiller or spading fork.

Peas in February

We have two great “pea days” coming on Feb. 3-4 with the moon in the light phase and the sign in Gemini (the arms), the bean/pea sign. 

With those days ahead I want to mention the late Dr. Harry Cowherd and his penchant for planting peas before Washington’s birthday, which is Feb. 22. Cowherd’s daughter, Kim Cowherd, the former Franklin County Extension horticulture agent, testifies to the truth of this, remembering joining her dad and her brother, Lee, in February pea planting.

I’ve never asked his widow, Betty Cowherd, about the veracity of this story, but I imagine she would concur. 

Peas and snow peas are cool weather veggies — but I don’t know if that makes them a cold weather crop! The planting chart in "Home Gardening in Kentucky," a free publication from the extension service that I highly recommend, has March 1 as the earliest date for us to plant peas and snow peas here in USDA Zone 6B. Given the way our climate is warming, Cowherd’s suggestion may not be too far from that of the “experts.”

Keep in mind that peas and snow peas take a lot of space to produce many peas. If you have the space and like peas, you might give them some a shot — and how about planting them before Washington’s birthday!

But hold off on planting Southern Peas. The chart says the earliest date for them is May 5.

Reminders and other facts

Groundhog Day: My late grandfather’s favorite holiday is coming up next Sunday, Feb. 2, with the arrival of Groundhog Day. Tradition has it if the groundhog sees his or her shadow on that day then we’ll have six more weeks of winter. On the other hand, if the day is cloudy then winter is about over.

Personally, I’m hoping for a cloudy day but, on the other hand, winter hasn’t been too bad so far.

I mention my grandfather here because he annually claimed it to be his favorite holiday since he didn’t have to send cards or give presents. However, he was a very generous man!

Midpoint of winter is Feb. 4, just a couple of days after Groundhog Day. The day celebrates exactly what it is — the midpoint of winter — with spring scheduled to arrive on March 19 at 11:50 p.m. with the vernal equinox.

Grass seed in February: The optimum planting stretch for grass seed in February is Feb. 9-22 when the moon will be in the dark phase. Fortunately, there are no days ruled by killing signs during the stretch and there are two great days, Feb. 13-14, when the very fertile sign Scorpio (the secrets) rules.

Spreading gravel: The best time to pour or spread gravel on your driveway or farm road is when the moon is in the light phase. The next stretch for that began late Friday and continues through Feb. 8. This goes for laying stones on a path, too.

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