I’m probably a little late in putting my peas in… but living in the mountains means we are behind most coastal farmers. I mean it snowed just 3 weeks ago! Nonetheless, today’s the day; the soil is ready to be worked, the sun is shining, and the boy is sleeping.
Peas prefer a cooler soil (approximately between 10-22°C), so they are often one of the 1st crops to be direct seeded into the bed. This will sometimes trump your crop rotation plan, as you want to get them into whichever bed is thawed first.
We’ve prepped the bed by removing the winter mulch (in this case leaf mould), spreading our homemade complete organic fertilizer (see below), and broad-forking it to mix it all up, and make the bed soft & fluffy again. I also like to add a little extra sand into the soil, as peas prefer good drainage, which helps warm the soil faster than a clayey soil. There’s a little hole that my dog has dug in the grass that is magically full of sand. I just take a couple shovels full from there… Shhh! Don’t tell the farmer!
Peas and all legumes are capable of fixing nitrogen in the soil, thus people are often making the mistake, thinking they don’t need to be supplemented with nitrogen. But the truth is, they will use most of the nitrogen they fix, which means they wont necessarily enrich the soil for the following crop. So fertilizing is still important!
Next, we like to put our trellis up in the middle of the bed, before seeding the peas. Since we move our pea bed around each year, we like to have a temporary trellis. In this case, made from rebar stakes and this very beautiful fluorescent orange netting. Don’t worry, when the peas grow up it will still look nice, I swear!
If you are planting a short variety of peas, you may be able to skip this step. But generally peas like a trellis for support, and allows for the peas so be spaced closer together, since the plant will be able to spread out on the trellis. Great for increasing sunlight on your plants, minimizing disease, and harvesting as well!
Next comes the seeding. Peas should be heavily seeded, about 12-15 seeds per foot, and planted about 1-1½ inches deep. I make a little trench with the handle of my shovel about 2-3 inches from the trellis, drop my peas in, cover, and water them in. I like to plant only part of my row, and plant in successions, every 2-3 weeks, so we can have peas all summer. By placing the trellis in the center of the row, it allows for us to plant the peas on either side of the support, which also leaves enough space to side crop with quick maturing plants; spinach, lettuces, arugula, or radishes, for example.
There are 3 types of peas you can plant: shelling peas, snow peas, and snap peas. Shelling peas are a little labour intensive, as you have to remove the shell before eating. But, when picked with proper timing (plump, and before the sugars have converted to starches), they are often the sweetest & juiciest, and great for blanching & freezing for the winter. Snow peas are harvested when the pods are still flat. Those are the ones you will find in Asian stir-fry. With snap peas, you eat the whole thing. They are actually a shelling pea & snow pea cross. They are sweet & juicy, but their only downfall is that they have a string that needs to be removed before eating.
Being a homesteader, can you guess which one is my favourite?