Now’s the time to get out and start getting your fingernails dirty

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By Cheryl Steenerson

As the sunshine-yellow blossoms of daffodils open, spring rolls in to warm our hearts and we get to roll up our sleeves.
On March 20, the sun will officially shift into our vernal equinox, bringing the lively weather of spring with it. All I can say is expect everything, all four seasons, throughout the month.
If nothing else, it will certainly keep us on our toes, as if the mud isn’t enough.
Before I forget, there are still seats left for Heirloom Seed Workshop on March 24 from 10 a.m. to noon at the public library. Call 839-6420 to register for the free workshop to reserve a seat. You’ll get five packets of seeds and the knowledge of how to grow them.
The time has finally come to start digging in the dirt. In addition to greens, onions, radish, carrots, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, it’s time for the P’s. Potatoes and peas can go in the ground, but make sure you have the right ground. Potatoes like fertile, well-drained and slightly acidic soil. They also like sunshine and just the right amount of water. They do not like weeds, so plan to mulch.
About 8 pounds of potatoes can be cut up (keep one to two eyes in each piece) and planted into a 100-foot row. Give your little cut pieces a day or two to cure before you plant.
Place them 6 inches apart and cover with 4 inches of soil. Once they start to pop through the soil, start your mulching. I lay down newspapers and then cover that with straw and more straw as it grows.
The rows should be 3 feet apart, from plant to plant. You don’t have to dig in the dirt to grow potatoes. I used old feed sacks last year, and hung them from a fence. They required daily watering and the harvest was smaller than I wanted.
You can also build a ring of wire fencing and layer straw and potatoes inside. Add straw as the plants grow up.
You can also use large barrels. In the field, keep piling straw or dirt up, as the plant grows taller, to encourage more root activity. Make it look like you always have short potato plants. This will also slow down discovery of the plants by flying pests. When your blossoms begin to appear, you can gently dig for a few “new” potatoes. These little gems don’t even need peeling because the skins are so thin.
Once the foliage on the plant starts to die back, the potatoes are fully grown and ready to dig. You can even leave them in the soil to store until the first frost of fall. You do take a risk of spoilage, due to wet weather, if you decide to do that.
Peas are good companion plants for potatoes. Radish, spinach and lettuce are also good companions.
You have a big variety of peas to choose from, with different growing types (dwarf bush or vining), harvest dates (extra early, early, midseason and late), and shell or edible pod types.
Now, the time has finally come to get planting and no matter what our weather, I’m guessing that’s going to put smiles on all of our faces. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.