By Sommer Cartier.
Peas are a cool season crop, grown best in temperatures between 65-75 degrees. They thrive in rich, well-drained soil. While they love the sun, they can be grown in partial shade, making them great for almost any garden. Now is a good time to plant them, when we aren't quite ready for planting warm season crops but it's too late to plant crops such as cauliflower and broccoli. They work best with gardens that are partially shaded. Peas are widely loved by gardeners and with the following helpful tips, can be enjoyed from fall to early spring.
Choosing the Right Variety For You
Before planting peas, select a type (sugar, snap, or English) and variety that suits your garden conditions and personal preference. The climbing varieties are extremely popular, reaching heights of six or seven feet. A high yielding variety, and favorite of mine, is the Mammoth Melting Pea. If growing this variety, or any climbing variety, be prepared to provide a tall trellis or fence for delicate tendrils to grab hold of and climb.
If your garden lacks vertical space, there are plenty of dwarf varieties that grow only two or three feet tall. Two favorites of mine are the Dwarf Grey Sugar and the Sugar Ann. Both are heavy producers and require little to no trellising when grown a few inches apart and allowed to climb on one another.
Tips for Planting Peas
If starting from seedling, handle young plants with care, making sure not to disturb the roots. The roots of peas are extremely sensitive and prefer not to be tickled. This can lead to disease and other complications.
If starting from seed, soak the peas in water, but only for a few hours. Some gardeners recommend soaking overnight. However, this can lead to diseases such as damping off.
Before placing seeds in the ground, coat them with an inoculate powder. An inoculate powder generally consists of bacteria (though it can also be mycorrhizal fungi) that encourages legume roots to grow nodules that “fix” nitrogen. This means the nodules pull nitrogen from the air and convert it to a usable form of ammonia, one the plants can readily take up for growth. While inoculating peas is not required, you may experience increased yields as a result. This practice can lead to improved soil as well. At the end of the season, till the plants into the soil. The nodules will serve as a storehouse for nitrogen, making themselves available to the next crop as they decompose into the soil.
Tips for Harvesting
Peas are their sweetest when harvested young and crisp, before the pods have filled out. You can eat young sugar and snap peas, pods and all. However, if harvested sugar or snap pods are past their prime, they may still be salvaged if they're shelled, cooked, and eaten as English peas. The tendrils can be enjoyed as well, adding a touch of class and appeal to any stir fry or salad.
To ensure a healthy bounty of peas, harvest frequently, allowing the plant to put its energy towards producing new pods. Also, avoid harvesting or working with peas when the leaves are wet to avoid the onset of bacterial blight. Finally, rotate crops if any form of bacterial or fungal diseases present themselves.
Incorporate these techniques and you will enjoy a bounty of peas while having plenty to share with neighbors and friends.