It's tradition around here to plant potatoes on Good Friday. My uncle has done this for years and I keep meaning to ask him what he does when winter decides to hijack spring. It's 27° and snowy. Not exactly planting weather. And why Good Friday anyway?
It seems that the tradition of planting on Good Friday came from the Catholics. They would have their seed potatoes blessed with holy water at Good Friday services. Apparently, it's just one of those practices that has been carried through time, though of course, there's nothing magical about Good Friday. It's just a good time to start potatoes, weather permitting. And I'd be hard pressed to find anyone doing anything in their garden around here today.
We planted potatoes for the very first time last year. We put them in an area that was bordered by herbs and lilies because it was kind of an impulsive move on our part and we hadn't planned a spot for them.
We bought 'Red Pontiac' seed potatoes that had already been chitted from Walmart. The potato plant is rather attractive, but only until mid-summer, when it turns yellow and dies. Under the ground are the potatoes, growing in clusters, waiting to be dug whenever we're ready. They don't need to be dug up right away, but should be out of the ground within a few weeks after the plant has died. If you don't, the potatoes in the ground will start growing again. I found this out, because I missed some of the little itty bitties and started seeing green potato plants coming up here and there. There wasn't enough time in the growing season to let these grow to completion and produce potatoes, so I pulled them up. I love those itty bitties, because I make potato soup with them and just throw them in the pot whole.
Other early growers are peas and spinach. Especially spinach. It's a very fast grower and we were eating fresh spinach salad just a few weeks after planting. Peas are too much work for me for no more than you get, so I don't grow those anymore. Lettuce is another cool weather crop and we planted both leaf and head lettuce last year. The head lettuce was scrumptious and much better than any I've ever bought in a store. The mesclun mix leaf lettuce was good, too, but didn't store very well.
Onions like cool weather, too, and we grew sweet yellow granex, which is like the famous Vidalia onion. By law, they can't be called Vidalias unless they're grown in a specific 20-county area of Georgia, but of course they are grown elsewhere and go by their alias. Those who grow 'true' Vidalia onions say that they don't taste the same grown elsewhere though. I'd have to say that is probably true, because our Vidalia Wannabes weren't much sweeter than plain old yellow onions we've grown before. They were good, just not exceptionally sweet like we'd expected.
Since we weren't able to get our potatoes in the ground today, I consulted our copy of The Old Farmer's Almanac to see what it had to say about planting in our area. We've never paid attention to what it said before, in fact have never even consulted it. But we bought a copy this year just for fun. It says anytime in the month of May will do. The earliest planting time listed for us here in zone 5 is for parsnips, which is April 7th to the 30th. Does anyone actually grow parsnips? Does anyone eat them??
The only vegetable I've planted this early is my 'Sungold' cherry tomatoes, which have put on true leaves now. I've transplanted them to larger peat pots and they have already enjoyed a little outside time earlier this week when it was summer instead of the winter we're having now. I've got 'Chilly' chili peppers growing, too, but they're ornamental only.
This is the hardest time of year to conjure up patience, even with such frigid temperatures (16° for the low tonight!). I've got seed packets lying in wait and seedlings anxious to dig their toes into the earth. Just a little while longer...