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The Kitchen Garden: Peas Please

The Kitchen Garden:

Growing Peas: The legume family

Peas are grown for the pod, peas and pea tips. Peas are very easy to grow with a few considerations. The can be high yielding and a joy to have in the kitchen garden. They are a great use of space as they grow vertically. Suitable for many locations from a large kitchen garden to a small growing plot, a courtyard, balcony, roof terrace and in pots or containers. Peas are fun for children to grow too, a great introduction to gardening. As children love to discover things they enjoy finding the fresh peas in a pod.

How to grow successful peas:
Peas like to be in the sun, yet not too much or to be scorched. You will soon know this to be so after extremely hot weather when they look dried, dehydrated and lacking a richness in colour.  
They like rich soil and specifically to be feed on a regular basis, perhaps once per month. They also like to be well watered. However they do not like to be water-logged. The watering and moisture in to soil will dramatically affect the establishment, length of growing season and the bounty of your crop. The sweetness and moisture of the peas will be much more luscious with regular moisture within the soil. If you keep a check on your watering and feeding, depending upon the weather you will notice healthier and higher performing pea plants.
Peas also like a soil which is ph neutral to slightly alkaline; ph 6.5-7.

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Young Pea Shoots, Peas supported with peas sticks & peas ready for harvest

I generally feed with an organic liquid seaweed feed:
Three extra facts about seaweed:                                                                                                                                                                     
  • Seaweed has been used as a natural fertilizer for many centuries because it is so nutrient rich.                                                        
  • Seaweed is not a plant but algae.                                                                                                                                                                                
  • You can do more with seaweed than fertilizer, it can be eaten and quantities are also used in medicine today.
Considerations before sowing pea seeds:
First consider what height of peas you want to grow they can vary between 60cm to 150cm-200cm. Whichever height they will need supporting. I find even the new varieties which are shorter growing and named as ‘self-supporting` still require support with pea sticks.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Also consider the variety of pea; options are usually listed by their cropping time : Early, late early or early main crop, main crop.
Some descriptions will also refer to the type of pod or pea, growing habit or other positive attributes.

A few other descriptions you may see:

Smooth seed pods are generally hardier and are used for early and main crop. Wrinkled varieties are less hardy yet often sweeter. Semi-leafless are sturdier supporters of them-selves as they have more tendrils to twine each other for support.                             

There are long pod, shorter pod varieties and many varieties which will give long cropping season. Many are disease resistant; these will have been `breed` to be so. If you are keen on environmental issues you may prefer to source heritage seeds to grow.

And:

`Petis-pois` as many of us know are a sweet, small pea, delicious in salads or eaten straight from the pod.                            

Mangetout` and `Sugar snap` pea are grown for the young, tender edible pea pod, this is an immature pod and if left to develop would become a pea pod or possibly a large, tougher mangetout. These are better harvested young. Personally I generally find if I do not pick them young and on a regular basis I shorten the cropping period and the plants tend to go-over sooner.  

Named varieties: This may vary depending upon which country you are living in.

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Protecting Pea crop from the bird & fresh picked pea pods

Ready to sow

Sowing now:                                                                                                                                                             

Indoors: Early spring, about 1 month from the frost free date – October.                                                                                               
Outdoors: After the last frosts –October. 
This timing will depend upon your climate, where in the world you are located, the pea variety. Check individual seed packets. Generally not sown during the main summer season and heat.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Sow: in individual pots or modules. You can sow 3-5 per pot, just be aware you may need to separate when planning out. I broadcast the seed in a seeding tray in compost. I generally soak my seeds to soften then pre-germinate as you would with sprouted seeds such as mung beans. This way I get a quicker germination than just sowing the dry seed in moist compost. However they can be sown dry as this is my personal `pea sowing` preference.                                                                                                                              
Keep moist: yet not wet until the peas emerge from the compost. I allow the peas shoots to become approximately 3 inches. At this point they are a little sturdier and I feel confident that mice will not eat the seed. Mice are very partial to pea seeds !                       
Sow direct: into shallow rills. Be on the look-out for mice.                                                                                                                               
Sowing depth: 4-5cm or 1.5-2 inch.                                                                                                                                                               
Planting distance: 5cm or 2inches apart in single or double rows.                                                                                                              
Rows Apart: approximately 60cm or enough space to walk through although others may advise differently. I plant double rows, so I have a thick crop and harvest on each side. Allowing access to each side. Remember once pea supports and plants are mature this will reduce your pathway!                                                                                                                                                                                      
Planting out pea seedlings: as above distances.                                                                                                                                            

Looking after your peas:                                                                                                                                                                       

Support: consider how you will support them early and construct your pea support as the peas emerge. Leaving it till they are growing along the ground may damage and weaken the pea plants. Pea sticks are ideal to the height of the variety you choose. Secure in the ground. Use natural twine to secure a frame.                                                                                                                        
Protection: netting is essential to protect the peas from the birds. I use a fine netting supported on curved metal frames and pea sticks bridging between the frames. Open netting can still be accessed by birds beaks. Unless it is supported above and away from the pea plants.                                                                                                                                                                                                          
Water: See above.                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Weed regularly.                                                                                                                                                                                     

Harvesting: Peas are generally cropping in June depending upon the weather and your climate. Start picking at the base of the pea plant working upwards. Pick regularly to encourage new growth and more pods. When picking Mangetout/snowpeas pick young and tender. When picking peas just feel the pod to ensure the pod is full, the pod tends to swell and then the pod develops. Avoid leaving to long as this will stunt new production and the peas you pick will be less tender and sweet.       

Trouble spots:                                                                                                                                                                                                    

"Pests": mice, pea moth, pea thrips, birds & aphids.                                                                                                                                            
Disease: downy mildew, pea leaf and pod spot powdery mildew.

Enjoy Your Peas,  

Laara                                                                                                                                                                                               

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 All Photographs © Laara Copley-Smith at Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design. All rights reserved.

Laara.CSB

Laara Copley-Smith is a professional Garden Designer based in the UK with a passion for Kitchen Gardens and growing organically. Laara has been a vegan for over ten years, is a raw foodist and is a keen photographer. Laara offers an extensive range of bespoke design services and creative consultancy and can be contacted here.

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