|Everyone loves peas! Even beagles.|
Though they’re a cool season crop, perfect for spring and fall gardens, peas are a bit of an anomaly. The plant likes it chilly, but the seed prefers it warm, with best germination at 50 to 75 degree soil temperatures. True, they’ll sprout if the soil is as cool as 40-degrees, but at those temperatures, peas take their time.
Several types of peas are perfect for growing at home. Garden, or English, peas are best for gardeners who have a lot of time on their hands and want to spend an afternoon shelling the seeds from the pods for their meal. Several years ago I shelled what I thought was a huge bowl of the pods; at the end of an hour I had roughly three tablespoons of peas.
|Not my yield, but it's a lot of work to shell peas!|
(Photo courtesy of Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup: http://jamarattigan.livejournal.com/545902.html)
Cooks wanting more performance from their plants should consider planting snap or snow peas, which can be eaten pod and all. Snow peas are harvested young, before the seeds swell, while snap peas are delicious once the peas fill the pod. Superb in stir fry and salads, these peas are kitchen-ready for quick meals. An outstanding variety is Amish snap pea, with sweet, smaller pods that make excellent snacks as you harvest.
Last year I tried growing Alaska peas, which are unremarkable in fresh eating, but dried make a delicious pea soup. We enjoyed that so much this past winter that I’m doubling the size of the planting this spring; last year’s four-by-eight-foot planting box yielded exactly one pound of peas. I’d like a little more than one soup pot’s worth. Grow dry peas as you would dry beans: leave the pods on the vine until both pod and pea are completely dry, then shell and store the peas in a clean, tightly covered container.
Peas are a cool-season crop, so if your soil is 40-degrees or warmer you can sow them directly into your garden. Since they prefer to germinate at warm temperatures, then grow cool, savvy gardeners sprout their peas indoors then pop them into the ground. To give yours a head start, place them between damp paper towels in a warm place, checking them several times per day to make sure the towels are damp and to look for germination. Peas can be fussy about transplanting, so once they’ve sprouted, plant them one-inch deep and two-inches apart as soon as possible.
|Sugarsnap peas have edible pods and flowers|
(Photo courtesy of the University of California Master Gardeners in Napa County)
Although many varieties are short enough to need no staking, others need a bit of trellising to keep those gloriously sweet pods aloft. Chicken wire supports run up taller stakes work, as do soft pea fences made from nylon string or twine. Other gardeners employ tomato trellises to hold up the vines, or you can get creative with a chicken wire coated pvc tunnel that opens to one side.
Planting sun-sensitive spinach and lettuce under the pea tunnel extends their season, protecting them from heat as the pea vines grow. Because peas climb readily, they need little encouragement from the gardener to find the trellis.