Peas along with beans are called a novice grower’s best friends. They neither take that long to grow nor do they require constant care. When it comes to eating them however, they are considered a perfect accompaniment for most dishes. Whether raw, boiled, or mashed, peas deliver the same smooth texture and absolutely unique, delicious, flavor. One of the best things about peas is that no matter what form you buy them in, be they fresh, canned or frozen; they cook in next to no time at all. Pea soup is one of the most popular home-made dishes, which also features prominently in the menus of high end restaurants.
Like most green vegetables, peas too are chockedfull of nutrients. They are filled with Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, B3, B2 Vitamin C, the rare Vitamin K, Fiber, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Iutein, Zinc, Folic Acid, Choline, Iron, and Copper. For vegetarians, peas can prove to be an excellent source to acquire sufficient amounts of protein. On their own, peas keep the body healthy, give the body an energy boost, keep the skin clear, provide excellent nourishment to pregnant women and babies, prevent heart diseases, and have been described as the perfect protection against stomach cancer. If peas weren’t a part of your daily diet before, then they should most definitely be now.
And here’s another benefit of growing peas – along with beans and clover they are part of the ‘leguminous plants’ family – which have small nodes on the roots. These plants actually capture Nitrogen from the atmosphere in a process called ‘fixing’, enriching your soils for other plants after your peas have been harvested!
Thankfully, there aren’t that many varieties of peas, meaning that you can probably look up all the varieties of peas in less than an hour or so. This also means that you won’t have to wrack your brainthinking about which variety to opt for and which variety to shun. As mentioned before, peas are a novice grower’s best friend. So the chances of something bad happening with your first experiment are pretty low. Here is a list of some of the most popular varieties of peas for home gardens to help you make your decision.
- Snap Peas:This is the most common variety of peas and also the most easily available. They are known for their smooth texture and sweet taste. The external pod is usually just as sweet which makes it possible to be consumed whole. They are usually thicker than other varieties and are called high climbers. This variety can produce more pods than any other variety.
- Snow Peas: This variety is also known by the name of “Sugar Snow Peas”. The flattened pods produced by this variety can be eaten whole. They can be eaten raw or stir fired without shelling, though they produce the best results when they are picked very young. Snow peas can be both high climbing and low climbing. The top of the vines of snow peas are usually used for salads.
- Shell Peas: Alternate names for this variety are English Peas and Garden peas. Shell peas are grown only for the seed, which is why they are shelled soon after they are harvested. The pod of shell peas is very hard and completely inedible. Shell peas can also be high climbing and low climbing.
2. The Best Time to Grow Peas
Spring is considered to be the perfect time to grow peas. They are called the cool weather plant. You can start planting them at the beginning of spring or a month after the frost subsides. Pea plants thrive in the initial cool summer months. Harsh heat can completely destroy the crop however. The same applies for frigid cool weather. The initial months of spring allow the pea plant to get as much sunlight as they want while staying in a cool climate.
Loamy, clay and sandy types of soil are just perfect for pea growth. A combination of all three would be even better. The soil needs to be moist without being soggy. One of the easiest ways to check that is to take a hand full of the soil. If the soil breaks easily then you can go ahead with the preparation for the planting. But if it’s hard then you need to work on it a little to make it so. Clumpy soil will not allow the pea plant to expand that much.
4. Preparing the Soil
Once you’ve determined the soil is loose and moist enough, you can start to prepare it further. You can spread aged compost and manure in the soil and mix it up but you have to take caution here. Be very light with fertilizer, after all, they fix their own nitrogen, remember! Over-fertilizing your pea plants can lead to the plants growing super high, but not yielding a great crop of peas.
You can buy seeds locally but it would be best if you purchase the pea seeds either online or from a certified establishment. This will ensure that you get the very best of the variety. Buying certified seeds will also ensure that they are disease free and ready for sowing. Dried out peas would work just as well. You can also try to sow fresh peas. However, canned and frozen peas are absolutely useless for this task.
6. Planting the Seeds
If you are a novice then you might want to start with fifteen or less plants. Growing more might prove to be too time consuming. You might also not be able to give them the attention they need. This will leave them open to pests and diseases. To sow the seeds, in a straight row dig out inch deep gouges in the soil. Drop a singular seed and cover it lightly with the soil.
Pea Plants need to be watered at least once a week. Try to soak the plants through. The ground needs to be moist all the time. If it dries out then the peas might not grow as big as they could have. If the temperature gets too hot, then water the plants even more regularly. But if it rains, then try to refrain from watering for a while.
Pea plants are twining plants, meaning that as the vines grow they need to be twined with a bigger structure to help them grow upwards. If you have a big fence then you can twine the plant over it. But a better choice would be to build them a tripod with wooden sticks. Bamboo would be perfect for the task (but it is completely optional). The tripod should be at least three feet in height (it can be as tall as you can reach) and placed directly over the plant. Peas send out masses of twirly tendrils to latch onto support structures, so be conscious of this if you are using a bird net or pest barrier as pea plants grow extremely quickly and can become tangled up in a matter of days.
9. Organic Pest Control
A store-bought organic pesticide would work wonders with pea plant pests like Aphids and Seed Corn Maggots. These pests can cause diseases like Seed Decay, Seedling Root Rot, Wilt and Powdery Mildew, but most of the time they thrive on eating the plant from within.
If you don’t want to buy a pesticide from the store then you can make your own. Boil 2 Tablespoons of dried basil in 4 cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain the water and add 1 Tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap (without bleach) when the water cools down. Use a sprayer to coat the plants till the pests are eradicated.
Peas are usually ready to be harvested six to seven weeks after they have been planted. The pods will rise up high and will look shiny green and healthy. This is all assuming they get at least six hours of sunshine every day. If it rained in the middle then you might want to give them an extra week before plucking out the pods. After that you have fresh peas ready to be utilized any way you want or to be frozen for later use.