Saturday’s rain didn’t hinder Allen’s Meadow’s community gardeners from kicking off the season with the annual “Planting of the Peas,” led by Carl Westerlund, the group’s unofficial gardener-in-chief. Part gardening class, part tongue-in-cheek humor, Westerlund’s attire is a nod to the traditional pea planting start date, St. Patrick’s Day. Due to this year’s persistent snows, Wilton gardeners pushed back this year’s planting event two weeks.

Westerlund explained how he augments the soil with compost, and then warms it by covering it for a few weeks prior to planting.  He demonstrated laying the peas in rows, inoculating them to develop a comprehensive root system, and then covering the seeds with vermiculite to anchor them in place.  Along the sides of his raised bed, he planted arugula, another plant that thrives in cool weather.

Carl Westerlund

“Soil preparation is key to successful gardening,” says Westerlund, seen left, surveying his garden. Placing tarps over beds protect fragile seeds just enough from snow, high winds, and small critters. Wire cages provide stability to climbers like peas.

Gardening Class

Gardening class gets underway with Westerlund planting peas in his raised bed.  In the front of the bed is a trap he designed for catching voles, the bane of Allen’s Meadow gardeners.  Taking part in class are (left to right) Suzanne Knutson, Ethel Sebastian, Pat Sidas, Melinda Weatherly, and Brigit Diforio.

Covering peas

Covering peas with vermiculite helps anchor them into the soil.  Westerlund advises that regular potting soil works just as well.