Plant your peas…

Peas like the cool season, and will germinate in cool soil, though my experience is that if the soil is too cold and wet the seed will rot before it germinates. But if we have a few days of springlike weather, and you have soil that is fairly loose and friable (more crumbly than soggy), such as a raised bed that has been prepared the year before and perhaps covered with a cloche, plastic or thick layer of bark mulch to keep the soil fairly dry; or in planting soil newly placed in a raised bed, you can get an early crop of peas growing in March.

I grow sugar snap peas if I grow nothing else. And I mean nothing else. There have been years I didn’t do a garden, but I did get a batch of sugar snaps in, just a patch by the back door or in the back border of a flower garden.  You can harvest sugar snap peas at virtually all stages of shell size, from barely filled and flat, to full of large peas. When young you can eat them pod and all, fresh or steamed, when older you can take offf the shell and eat just the peas as you would  regular peas. I like shelling peas too, the traditional pea, you remove the pod and eat the peas inside. These peas can also be allowed to mature and be dried to eat as dried peas for soup, though they aren’t split like we are use to seeing.

I’ve also grown purple podded peas, as much as an ornamental as for food, usually along an outer fence or border, because they are beautiful and delicious too. At this point my least favorite pea, though still wonderful, are the snow peas which must be harvested while they are still flat, without formed peas, otherwise they are stringy. That leaves a very short harvest window so for me, many go to waste. But the few I get are delicious!

Purple sugar peas, harvested at this stage are sweet and will turn green when cooked.

Peas benefit from a nice rich soil, and adding a bit of organic fertilizer to your planting bed in the fall can ensure that the peas have additional nutrients available in the spring.  Slugs love peas, as do birds who are looking for food in the late days of winter and will pull them right out of the ground, so it is best to cover the seeds with some row cover and keep a close eye out for slugs during the first few weeks.

Once peas have germinated I will replant seeds in the areas that didn’t germinate, I’ve found that even if  I replant a few weeks later they will usually catch up with the others.

I’ve had little problem with deer eating peas, so I will plant them along the outer edge of garden where they hang over and the deer don’t seem to bother with them. We’ve also interplanted them between Christmas trees here and they’ve done fine. Since peas help fix nitrogen from the air and leave the nitrogen in the soil if you don’t pull up the roots when you harvest, they are good for the plants around them.

The white nitrogen fixing nodules on the roots of peas.

I’ve even grown peas with oats which are complementary, the oats provide structure for the peas to climb, and peas help provide nitrogen for the oats.  I actually dried, stored and then fed the peas and oats to my ducks who ate the seeds and leaves, and the stalks bacame bedding in the pen. This is a traditional plant combination I will be experimenting with in the future.

Peas growing with oats

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