How to Grow Peas
How to Grow Peas
Peas – Pisum sativum hortense
The garden pea has been known as a cultivated plant for centuries. Its food value is good, for among other properties peas contain vitamins A, B and C, and calcium and iron in small quantities.
Peas are grouped as either round or wrinkled. The former are hardier and are widely used for autumn sowing. Wrinkled peas are of superior flavour, but not always so heavy cropping as the round-seeded sorts. The most suitableis a medium loam with a fairly high water table and an adequate lime content.
The average family of four needs about 2 lb of shelled peas to make a decent dish. In order to obtain this quantity a row about 3m long is required. Each row can, and should, give about four pickings, early varieties giving a little less, and the late and main crop varieties slightly more. By careful planning it is possible to have a supply of fresh peas from the garden from late spring to early autumn.
For this, five half pints of different varieties are needed, each sowing requiring about I pint of seed, and ideally nine separate sowings are needed if an abundance of peas are required over a long period. The fifth sowing, can be a half pint instead of a quarter. Cloches are a help if not essential for the first three sowings, and also for the last sowing, since that crop will mature in early autumn, when often the weather becomes cold and unless covered, the crop will suffer.
Although peas obtain nitrogen from the air through root nodules, some nitrogen in the feeding given to the soil will be helpful. Where this is considered necessary dried blood can be watered in between the rows once the plants are growing nicely. Where possible peas should not be grown in the same plot more than once in three or four years. Rotational cropping always pays.
Once the soil has been worked into a fine, friable condition, it will be ready for sowing. Flat-bottomed or V shaped drills should be drawn out 8cm deep.
The distance apart depends on the variety, but as a guide, the dwarf sorts growing 30cm high should be allowed 60 or 90cm between rows, and for the taller sorts allow about the same distance between the rows as the height of the variety.
Autumn sowings must be given lighter ground. Early preparation is advisable the soil being well supplied with. Fresh manure should be avoided, since it leads to coarse growth with a poor yield of pods. Decayed manure, , etc. should always be worked in. Some gardeners make trenches for the rows.
Autumn sowings can be made from late summer onwards, using the round-seeded varieties. The earliest spring sowings are made rather more thickly and 3/4 pint of seed will sow a row 15m long. For the second early and main crop varieties, about 1/2 pint will be needed. It is best to go back to the earliest wrinkled varieties for the summer sowings.
Birds often attack pea as they begin to come through the ground. It is a good plan to place pea guards or to stretch strands of black cotton along the rows. Twiggy sticks should be inserted along the rows as soon as the seedlings can be seen. This applies whether the usual pea sticks or netting are to be used for the final supports. Such action will keep the seedlings from wind damage and from falling over on the ground where they become a prey to soil pests. A mulch of peat drawn towards the plants will prevent the soil drying out and ensure an even supply of moisture being available to the roots.
Earliest varieties will be ready from early summer and successional sowings will give pickings well into autumn.
Varieties: First Early: Early Onward 60cm a popular and heavy cropping sort; Feltham First 45cm for sowing in autumn and spring; Histon Mini 30cm a distinct variety early and hardy, well filled pods; Gradus 90cm fine wrinkled variety; Kelvedon Wonder 45cm popular for spring and summer sowing; Little Marvel 45cm well filled pods; Meteor 45cm round seeded, early, for autumn or spring sowing; Pilot 1-5 m. A fine round seeded sort for early sowing.
Second Early: Achievement 1-20 to 1-50m excellent for show purposes; Green Shaft 75cm excellent flavour; Histon Kingsize 1·5m very large well filled pods; Kwartella 60cm an immense cropper; Recette 60cm a wrinkled seeded double podded variety; Victory Freezer 75cm vigorous growing.
Main Crop: Alderman 1-35 to 1·50m a prolific cropper; Lord Chancellor 90cm exceptionally heavy cropper.
Late: Autocrat 1·20m dark green pods.
Pea, Asparagus – Lotus tetroglobus purpureus
In spite of its common name it is not a normal garden pea and it is only because of its flavour that asparagus comes into the name at all. The flowers are brownish-red.
Not fully hardy it is best to raise plants in gentle heat sowing in spring, gradually hardening off the seedlings forafter the frosts. Seed can also be sown outdoors where the soil is on the light side. Pick the pods while they are small-not more than 25 mm long and cook them whole.
This is a pea grown chiefly in the North of England, being used especially on mid-Lent Sunday which was once widely known as Carlin Sunday. The seeds are very distinct, being darker than any other variety.
The cultivation of the Carlin pea is the same as for the ordinary types the seed being sown in spring. Plants grow 1-80 to 2-10m high, and must be provided with suitable supports. Neither birds nor mice are interested in these peas, which are rarely if ever attacked by mildews, rusts or other troubles associated with the normal sorts.
The dried seeds should be soaked for some hours before being cooked until tender. If sprinkled with sugar and rum the flavour is superb.
Pea Petit Pois
This is reckoned by epicures to be one of the best of all peas. Very popular in France, where they seem to grow a number of sweeter varieties, they have a very delicious sugary flavour. Seed should be sown in spring, making the drills 25 mm deep. Allow 10 to 15cm between the seeds, with the rows 90cm apart. Since the plants grow to 1-20 m tall, it is an advantage to provide supports.
Gather the pods immediately they are filled, and if they are steamed without delay, the peas will readily fall out of the pods and the full flavour will be there too!
This is a little-grown type of pea, which has foliage, flowers and pods of a purple colour. It needs the normal culture for peas and is hardy. Growing about 1-60m high, it succeeds in almost all soils. The peas may be used when fresh in the ordinary way or can be dried for winter use. In either case they are of a most pleasing flavour.
Provided they are gathered when young, these peas are a real delicacy. The entire pods are eaten; all the preparation they need being the topping and tailing as required for. If the pods are picked when the peas are just swelling, they have a very sweet flavour.
Seed is sown in the ordinary way. Birds find the young pods attractive. It is therefore wise to cotton the rows. Slugs too, are liable to attack the plants or young pods if they are allowed to fall over and touch the ground. This is why they should be given supports at an early stage.
Several strains are available, including the Mange Tout pea, so popular on the Continent. This grows 1-20m to 1·40m high. A particular sugar pea known as Sweetpod, bears light green, succulent pods of sweet flavour. Dwarf Sweetgreen grows only 45cm high and is an excellent cropper of sweet, good flavoured peas.