Thursday, May 13, 2010

Peas, Beautiful Peas

Fresh garden peas are probably what won my kids over to the whole idea of gardening.  Nothing compares to picking your first pea pod, splitting it open, finding 6-8 perfect little green pearls inside and discovering how sweet and yummy they are.  Although, when they're young and tender - why bother splitting them open, when you can eat the whole pod!

So, it's no wonder that on top of their "things to grow this year" list are peas.  Luckily, peas are easy to grow and are one of the first things the kids can harvest.

We've tried growing regular shelling peas, sugar snap peas and snow peas.  Our favourite are the the regular shelling peas.  When they're young and fresh, we eat the whole pod.  When they're bigger, we shell them and  freeze a few for the winter - that's only if there are any left!

Planting the seeds is as easy as it gets.  Make a trench about 5-8 cm deep, place pea seeds in the trench about 2-3cm apart, cover with dirt, water and watch them grow.  Just follow the instructions on your seed package.

Growing Tips for Peas
Soaking Seeds
Back on the farm, I remember that my mom would soak pea seeds (dried peas) in water to speed up germination.  Soaking seeds in water (large seeds like peas, beans, corn, etc) allows the seed to soak up as much moisture as it needs to germinate.  Seeds do this automatically when in the soil, but soaking them overnight before planting speeds up the process considerably.  It is not necessary, especially if your soil has a lot of moisture, but it's a good idea if you want your plants to germinate early.

Supporting Peas
Last year was the first time we put up a wire trellis for our peas, and what a difference!  It was a welcome addition for both the peas and for us.  The peas grew up the fence and produced more than ever before.  For us, having them on a trellis made the picking much easier.  Check your package of pea seeds to see if you have a variety that benefits from a trellis.

Peas have small tendrils that will look for something to climb.  They need thin horizontal and vertical surfaces that are 5 to 10 cm apart to climb successfully.  We found chicken wire works well for us.

If possible, put up your support system the same day as your planting your peas.  It doesn't take long for pea seeds to germinate and they'll want to start climbing right away.  Their stems can be delicate and you risk breaking them if you try to support them once they're out of the ground and growing.

Extending the Pea Season
This year, we're going to try to extend our pea season in two ways - planting different varieties and staggering our seeding.   We've already planted our Green Arrow variety requiring 58-63 days to mature.  Soon we'll plant our Lincoln Homesteader variety requiring 63-68 days to mature.  We'll be eating peas all summer!

Can't wait for that first pea.

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