Home & Garden

Feb. 20, 2010: WSU extension office

Q.When can I plant peas in the garden? My grandmother used to say the best time is St. Patrick's Day. What do you think?

A. Peas can germinate in soil that's fairly cool (above 40 degrees), so they can be planted in very early spring. The best time will vary from year to year. Using a soil thermometer, check the soil temperature at the depth of about two inches and see if it's 40 degrees or above. If so, you can plant.

Q. Do I have to paint the pruning wounds on my fruit trees?

A. Painting wounds is not necessary in our dry climate. The treesshould heal nicely without any other intervention.

Q. Legume plants are said to 'fix' nitrogen. What does this mean?

A. Nitrogen persists in many forms in the soil and air. Not all forms of nitrogen are readily available for plants to uptake and utilize.

Nitrogen fixation refers to the conversion of nitrogen from un-usable to usable forms for plants. Legumes contain beneficial bacteria (rhizobia) on nodules upon their roots that fix the nitrogen. Legumes therefore leave nitrogen in the soil in usable forms after they are grown.

Q. When preparing frozen dinners in the microwave, the directions suggest testing the temperature. Is that step really important? They seem hot when I take them out of the microwave, isn't that good enough?

A. Unlike a conventional oven, the microwave oven leaves cold spots.

In order to assure all potential illness causing bacteria are destroyed, the directions call for rotating and stirring food at certain intervals, as well as checking the temperature of the final product.

Most people heat food in the microwave until it's "eating" temperature, which is much lower than the bubbly hot, 160 to 165 degrees recommended by most food manufacturers.

-- Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 509-735-3551 or Pasco at 509-545-3511.