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Peas, Peas, Peas!

Susan BerryOne of my favorite Spring veggies are peas. Living and farming in North Carolina for 9 years I attempted four different years to grow peas and was unsuccessful. No matter what type or variety I planted they never amounted to much, the biggest harvest being a handful of snow peas. The reason for this was that in NC there really is no Spring, the weather goes from Winter to Spring which lasts only a few days then the heat arrives. The one thing peas do not like is heat. Peas love Massachusetts! Though we have had a couple of hot days and even a brief heat wave a couple weeks ago my peas are thriving. I planted three types this year, Sugar Snap, Snow Peas and English Peas, the latter being the type I would like to focus on in this post.

Green Arrow English Peas on trellis fence. 

As you can see my English Peas are very happy. My fence trellis was doing a great job until last week when the peas started plumping and then the vines starting leaning. Well, I checked them twice during the week and they were not filling in well enough to pick so I left them but thought, oh no, we are getting too hot and these are probably going to be chicken food if they don't fill in soon. Then last week we got a good 2 inches of rain and some cooler day temps and WAALAA! I went out yesterday morning at 6am to find lots of filled in pods.

Green Arrow peas
Green Arrow peas ready to be shelled. 

After about 30 minutes of harvesting I sat down with some coffee and started shelling. When I was finished, I blanched the peas in salted boiling water for 1 minute then quickly drained and dumped them into a big bowl of ice water. Here is what I ended up with.

harvest of peas
An abundant harvest of peas. 

These gave me two quarts of peas for the freezer. And there is still four times this amount left on the vines filling in. Patience is a virtue, but not easy waiting for the new potatoes to grow so we can have creamed new potatoes and peas. I want to encourage you, if you have any space at all in your yard that gets part sun in the late Winter/early Spring plant English peas. Of the three types of peas I grew this year, which all did well, I will only grow English Peas from here on out. They were abundant, delicious and store well. I personally would not can them only because I prefer my veggies on the crisp side, canning would leave them mushy. They freeze beautifully and would hold well for 3-6 months in the freezer. The variety I grew is a reliable producer called Green Arrow. Spring peas should be grown as early as you can possibly get them into the ground. They have been known to grow even peeking through a light blanket of snow on the garden. They like a ph of between 6.0-7.0 and loamy soil makes them happiest. A good 1 inch of water per week is sufficient and peas do not like to stand in water so be sure your planting place has good drainage. Most varieties take approximately 50-60 days to harvest. Plant 1 inch deep with seeds one inch apart in double sided rows or single rows 18 inches apart. I place a metal fence support at each end of my row then run welded wire fencing between the posts and plant on either side of the fencing. The fence acts as a trellis. The other step I highly recommend is a organic supplement called N-Dure Pea Inoculant. N-DURE is one of the most economical products on the market for obtaining nitrogen fixation. Packaged as a pre-mixed, humus-based product, N-DURE's high potency can yield results in a wide range of conditions. This effective inoculant provides the proper live bacteria for many legumes, helping them form nodules that take nitrogen from the air and enrich the soil. For peas, beans, lima beans and lupines. It is used as a slurry or shake method, which is what I did. I simply dropped the pea seeds in a bowl of water scooped them out with a slotted spoon let the excess water drip off and drop into the inoculant that has been placed in a ziploc bag. Gather the top and shake. Scoop the seeds out gently shaking excess powder off and plant as directed. Using this product will likely increase the plants production by double. 

Consider growing peas next Spring. I will be experimenting with a Fall/early Winter planting this year and will come back and let you know the results. See you again soon with our next harvest here on the farm.

Fall Update:
Hello Friends, it is November 5th and I am happy to announce I have flowers forming on my Fall planting of Green Arrow English Peas. Though we have had a couple of light frosts here in SE Massachusetts and this week we may have a couple nights below 32, I have been covering the trellis with a piece of shade cloth and so far so good. I hope to be picking peas for Thanksgiving dinner. 

nebraska dave
11/18/2012 3:27:49 AM

Susan, welcome to the GRIT blogging community. It sounds like you are a pea growing expert. We need one in our group. I tried growing peas several years ago. It was a prolific year for peas. Much time was spent picking, shelling, and canning. That's when I discovered that I was the only one in the family that liked peas and the hours spent tending, harvesting, and preserving the peas could have been purchased at the local store for about three dollars. So, I get my frozen peas at the big box store when I feel the craving for some peas. :0) That's not to say that I may grow them again but just to sprinkle them on the a salad or to have a serving or two fresh out of the garden for myself. Have a great pea pickin' day.

heather jackson
11/15/2012 4:19:50 PM

Great post! I didn't get very many peas this spring, but it got fast in a hurry in Alabama! My fall crop is blooming away, so I am hopeful for a better fall harvest and I'll get some in the ground earlier this year for a spring harvest!

susan berry
11/15/2012 2:53:45 AM

Hi Mary, Try a raised bed or build up an area for drainage. They be grown in a container too since they grow vertically, it is easy to grow them this way. Thanks for visiting my blog. Susan

mary carton
11/15/2012 2:30:31 AM

Welcome to the GRIT bloggers. I blog as Rosedale Garden. Every year I plan to go some, but usually we have so much rain in the spring that I can't get into the garden to plow and by the time my low area is dry enough, it's too late to plant them. The last several falls have been too dry. I have managed once to grow some and loved them.

milk maid
11/14/2012 9:07:39 PM

Susan, what a wonderful crop of peas. Very hot here in Texas also and they are hard to grow. Suzy