Why you should give peas a chance
I had never eaten fresh peas in my life, only frozen, you know, McCain or Country Harvest. So, you can imagine my excitement when I picked my very first harvest of garden peas.
As an amateur gardener, one of the most confusing choices is what to grow, and the array of choices displayed on the seed rack at the supermarket is overwhelming.
We decided to start with peas. Fortunately for us, growing peas is easy-peasy. Is that where the expression comes from? The pea plant is hardy, fairly low-maintenance, not very susceptible (it seems) to insects and disease and you can plant them from mid-winter to spring.
We lucked out on that, because we were just sowing seeds willy-nilly without really thinking the seasons through. We bought a Greenfeast Garden Peas seed pack; pea seeds are really easy to sow, as they’re quite large.
Don’t do what we did when we started and sow 40 seeds in a block. We had no idea how tall they would grow, and that they send out delicate little tendrils that cling to anything, including each other.
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They very quickly outgrew the first little wigwam that we built for them, so we finally bought tall bamboo poles (they don’t have to be thick), strung with white rope. They are now about 1.4m tall and quite possibly still growing.
I made a note to myself that next time I would definitely plant them in single rows against a trellis, a tall bamboo stick structure you can make yourself, or a netting, or something they can climb up against. Because everybody needs support sometimes, right?
They like fertile, welldrained soil and full sun. Plant each seed about 3cm deep and 5cm apart. They bush up quite nicely and mature within 90 to 120 days. Our pea pods started appearing at 89 days, the little over-achievers.
The garden pea has the most beautiful white blossoms and you can keep picking your pea pods as they ripen. Wait until they are quite bulgy – the skinny pods are still growing. It’s good to pick the mature pods off, then the plant can focus on more blossoms and producing more pods for you to enjoy.
If you love to eat them fresh during their optimum growing season, I would recommend sowing a smaller number of seeds at a time, not the entire seed pack. You need to calculate what your family might require, every four weeks, so that you can enjoy them straight off the plant.
This is called succession planting – you always have some crops ripening as you need them. I decided to plant three more pea plants at our garden gate entrance with some lettuce, beet and marigolds (just for those gorgeous white blossoms) against an old burglar bar over which I’m spanning white rope as the tendrils grow.
Good companions for them in a bed are carrots, turnips, lettuce, beans, sweetcorn and coriander. To preserve them, I guess I can just shell the pods, put them in a sealable baggy and freeze. Just like McCain does.