|Flowering pea plants|
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Peas are great for spring gardens. Not only do they taste great, but they add nitrogen to the soil and are easy to "put away" for winter eating. Early spring is the time to start peas as soon as the soil can be worked (between 2-6 weeks before your last frost date).
Peas love at least 6 hours of sun, well drained soil, and a side dressing of fertilizer or compost when planted. Don't get carried away with fertilizer during the growing season or you will have all greenery and no pods. Be sure to not water the foliage; stick with watering at the ground to avoid fusarium wilt.
Peas are part of the legumes which include fava beans, shell beans (like the popular red, kidney, Great Northern beans), snap peas, snow peas, green beans, lima beans, peanuts, lentils, and soybeans. Peas have been cultivated for thousands of years all around the world, originating in the Mediterranean and the Near East. Legumes have some of the highest protein in the plant world. When combined with grains, you can get a complete protein like you do from meat or eggs.
For maximizing your harvest in a small space, I would go for snow and snap peas since you eat the entire pod. Even the tips and flowers of the pea plant is edible and a great add to salads.
When you plant legumes, be sure to use a rhizobial bacteria inoculant. This will really boost your harvest. You just moisten the seed and coat with the rhizobial powder and plant. Nitrogen accumulates on the roots of the legume. Just be sure to not pull the plant when you are done harvesting from it so that the nitrogen stays in the soil!
The seeds germinate in temps between 40-75 degrees F. Just scratch a small hole about 1.5” deep to drop the seed in and cover. Have patience, seeds germinate anywhere from 7-25 days. Plant every 2 weeks until midspring for continuous harvest. Peas stop producing pods when temperatures exceed 70 degrees F. Providing shade can extend the season.
Harvest sugar snow peas just as the seeds begin to form to have the sweetest peas while the pod is still relatively flat. Harvest snap peas after the peas inside have reached full size. Even with shelling peas, pick as soon as the seeds have rounded out. Continuous harvesting keeps them producing. You can keep adding what you harvest to a freezer bag to have the sweetest and freshest for winter eating.
Peas can be grown in pots as well as directly in the ground. Growing in pots allow you to move your peas to a cooler area as spring heats up. Grow your peas where you want to plant a nitrogen hungry summer crop, like eggplant, lettuce, zucchini or tomatoes.
Most varieties are vining so be sure to give them a trellis or stake to wrap themselves around. You can easily grow vining in pots if you use a support and get varieties that the seed packet vine length isn't over a foot longer than the trellis for the pot.
There are bush varieties out there if you prefer to bypass a trellis or support. Look for varieties that say "compact", "good for small spaces", "good for containers", etc., if growing in small spaces. Burpee seed packets also have small clay pot with a checkmark in it for those that are good to grow in pots.