Sunday, July 13, 2008

Managing the Peas

Yesterday I spent an hour picking a bushel of the podded peas--Progress #9, an old variety--and another hour shelling them, then steamed them for a few minutes and froze about four quarts. Lack of rain caused them to be later than they should have been, but many had filled out and in the interests of efficiency I picked them when most of the pods were full--the very earliest were overripe, and the newest underripe, but the vast majority were just fine. I'll do another final picking in a few days and then cut them down, till them into the soil and after a couple of weeks plant buckwheat in the pea patch, which should smother the weeds and along with the pea plants add to the soil's organic matter.

"Managing" in organic gardening sacrifices maximum yield and profit for the long-term health and sustainability of the soil. I have not used a pesticide in growing vegetables here for more than 25 years, with the exception of rotenone on the potato plants--and that is an organic pesticide. Instead of depleting the soil with constant cropping, cover crops allow the soil to recover while improving tilth. Ashes from the woodstove lime the soil. This kind of management does not seek control, but rather it seeks to enhance the conditions under which nature, always uncertain, can sustain growth. This year's chief problem has been the dry spell for the past few weeks which in poor soil would have wilted the peas and severely cut back the yield. But the good soil was able to compensate, holding the early moisture long enough for the peas to fill out in the pods. So sustainability does not mean efforts to control and subdue nature but rather to observe and learn from nature, and then to work along with nature according to nature's best practices.

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