Green Arrow Pea
Peas are an easy-to-grow cool season legume crop best planted early in the season. Several sowings can be made starting in early spring, to extend the harvest season. In addition, plantings can be made in late summer for fall harvest. Peas for fall harvest are generally planted 8 to 10 weeks before the first fall frost.
Peas are available in a several different types of growth habits.
- Dwarf vining peas generally can be grown without the need for support. They typically grow just 12 to 18 inches tall.
- Short vining peas are a bit taller than dwarf types, growing about 20 to 30 inches tall. They can be grown with or without support. Pea brush, short lengths of pruned tree branches stuck into the ground in a pea planting, is a traditional method for supporting short vining varieties of peas, though a trellis can also be used.
- Vining varieties are climbers and should be grown on a tall trellis or other structure to support them. All types of peas have grasping tendrils so they are self-climbing.
- Afila type peas, like Pretty Pleasin' have extra tendrils and no leaves, making the peas very easy to see while harvesting. Their extra tendrils also make afila varieties strongly self-supporting so they can be grown without support.
Peas are also available with different pod types.
- Garden peas (var. sativum), also called shell peas, are the standard type of peas. They are used fresh or cooked after being removed from their pods.
- Snap peas are varieties with fiberless, edible pods (var. macrocarpon) that can be eaten without the need for shelling. Snap peas are shaped like garden peas but have tender pods that can be used like snap beans.
- Snow peas are flat-podded and harvested when the peas are small.
How to Plant
Peas are sown directly in the garden starting as soon as the soil is dry enough to be worked in spring. This is usually about 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost. Pea seeds are planted 1 to 2 inches deep with 1 to 2 inches between plants. Peas are often sown in double rows spaced 3 to 6 inches apart, with 24 to 30 inches between pairs of rows. Planting shallowly is recommended early in the season when soils are cool and wet.
Grow in full sun or part shade in moist, well-drained soil. Make repeated sowings for an extended harvest. Peas benefit from treatment with a bacterial inoculant before planting to allow them to fix nitrogen. Treated peas will grow more vigorously than untreated seed and will need less nitrogen fertilization.
Avoid using fertilizers high in nitrogen when growing peas, particularly when the seed has been inoculated. Use low rates of Algoplus All-Purpose Liquid Fertilizer 6-6-6 or Neptune Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer 2-3-1.
Peas are usually not seriously troubled by pests. Aphids will occasionally feed on plants. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is most common when peas are grown during warm weather. Growing resistant varieties will reduce problems with this disease. A natural, non-toxic fungicide like Serenade can also be used as a preventative spray to protect peas from powdery mildew. Watering early in the day and avoiding getting the leaves wet will also help to reduce powdery mildew problems.
Beans are a related vegetable grown during warmer parts of the season.
Use Natures Aid Inoculant or Granular Inoculant to treat seed before planting to ensure bean plants can fix nitrogen. Inoculants contain beneficial bacteria that live within the roots of peas and beans, capturing nitrogen from the air and changing it into a form usable by the plants. Use 70% Neem Oil or Safer Insecticidal Soap to treat insect pests. Diseases like powdery mildew can be prevented with Serenade organic fungicide. Climbing pea varieties can be supported with a Bean and Pea Tower.
Austrian monk Gregor Mendell's experiments with peas in the mid 1800s led to the first understandings of the nature of gene inheritance that are the foundation of modern genetics and plant breeding. Pea tendrils and tender, young pea shoots are edible raw or cooked.
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