Planting Winter’s First Crops

— Written By
en Español

El inglés es el idioma de control de esta página. En la medida en que haya algún conflicto entre la traducción al inglés y la traducción, el inglés prevalece.

Al hacer clic en el enlace de traducción se activa un servicio de traducción gratuito para convertir la página al español. Al igual que con cualquier traducción por Internet, la conversión no es sensible al contexto y puede que no traduzca el texto en su significado original. NC State Extension no garantiza la exactitud del texto traducido. Por favor, tenga en cuenta que algunas aplicaciones y/o servicios pueden no funcionar como se espera cuando se traducen.

English is the controlling language of this page. To the extent there is any conflict between the English text and the translation, English controls.

Clicking on the translation link activates a free translation service to convert the page to Spanish. As with any Internet translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not translate the text to its original meaning. NC State Extension does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text. Please note that some applications and/or services may not function as expected when translated.

Collapse ▲

Written by: Charlotte Glen, Horticulture Agent

As food prices increase many families are looking to their own backyards as a source of fresh, healthy, locally grown vegetables. Irish potatoes and garden peas are two of the earliest crops gardeners can plant outside. Both are easy to grow, highly productive, and favorites of both kids and adults at the dinner table.

More Peas, Please!

Garden peas, and their relatives, snow peas and sugar snaps, are simple and productive crops that almost anyone can grow. Peas grow best in sunny areas with well drained soil that is not too acidic, ideally with a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5. In coastal areas, peas can be planted outside as early as mid January. Even away from the coast, peas should be planted by mid February at the latest so they have enough time to mature before hot weather sets in. Garden and snow peas that develop under temperatures above 80° will be starchy and tough.

Soaking pea seeds in a jar of water for six to eight hours immediately before planting will help them germinate faster but is not absolutely necessary. Seeds may also be treated with Rhizobium inoculant, a natural bacterium that helps peas and other legumes convert nitrogen from the air into a form plants can use. If you are planting peas in an area where peas or beans have not been grown before, treating pea seeds with inoculant before planting may improve growth.

To apply inoculant, simply pour some into a bag, add the presoaked seeds and shake until the peas are coated. Immediately plant treated seed in the garden. Sow seeds an inch deep and one to two inches apart. Water well after sowing and keep moist until seedlings begin to emerge, usually within seven to ten days. Be sure to provide a low trellis such as pea fencing or a latticework of twiggy branches for the vines to climb upon.

Fresh peas will be ready to harvest 65 to 80 days after planting. When the pea pods swell they are ready to be picked. Peas are of the best quality when they are fully expanded but immature, before they become hard and starchy. Peas should be picked immediately before cooking because their quality and sweetness deteriorates rapidly. High fertility will cause excessive vine growth and poor yields, so be conservative with fertilizer applications.

Pass the Potatoes!

One of my favorite crops to grow in the spring garden is potatoes. No matter what your age, nothing is more fun than digging potatoes from the soil – it’s like a tiny treasure hunt! And the taste of home grown potatoes is outstanding.

Potatoes planted in early February will be ready to harvest in May and June. For best results, plant only certified seed potatoes, which can be purchased from garden centers this time of year. Certified seed potatoes are small potatoes that have been grown under special conditions to ensure they are free of diseases and usually give better results than potatoes purchased from the grocery store.

Potatoes need to be planted in well drained soil. Wet soils often result in disease problems and crop failure. To yield well, potatoes require consistent moisture and prefer rich soils that have been well amended with organic matter such as rotted horse manure or compost, and have a soil pH around of 5.5 to 6.0.

Potato varieties that do well in our area include ‘Yukon Gold’, a personal favorite, ‘Kennebec’, and ‘Red Pontiac’. Cut seed potatoes into pieces that are each about the size of an egg and contain at least one sprout, known as an ‘eye’. Cut pieces can be planted immediately or sprouted indoors for a few weeks by placing them in a warm, sunny location.

In the garden, plant seed pieces 6” deep and 10” apart in the row, with 3’ between rows. Keep in mind 12 pounds of seed potatoes can plant around a 100’ row, and yield over 200 pounds of spuds. Once harvested potatoes can be stored in a cool, dry, dark place such as a garage or shed, where they will keep for three to four months or more.

Learn More

If you have questions about growing vegetables contact your local Cooperative Extension office. In Pender County call 259-1235, Mon – Fri, 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or visit us online anytime by emailing

Learn more about growing peas and potatoes from these Clemson Extension fact sheets: