Growing and sowing peas

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Imagine picking your own homegrown pods of garden peas; then popping the pods and tipping the sweet little peas straight into your mouth. There probably isn’t a better tasting home grown vegetable than fresh peas straight from the pods. Even though you may end up eating them all before they ever reach the kitchen, garden peas are a great and very easy crop to grow. They also make good plants for children to try, so get them involved too.

Peas are hardy which means they are one of the crops that can actually be sown in situ now into the garden soil, (you can also sow them in the autumn). The trouble is they are so tasty that often garden mice and other creatures may eat them even before they come up. For the best results it’s much better to get them started in a cool greenhouse. You can sow peas into small pots, seed trays or modules but I prefer to use old guttering (that has been cleaned) to get them started. It’s the perfect shape and depth for the seedlings to grow in and then when they have filled the compost with roots you can slide the compost and plants into ready prepared seed drills.

Simply sow the seeds into half drainpipes (guttering) filled with a quality seed compost. Cover over with more compost and keep slightly moist. Do not over water and make sure you protect them from mice, by covering over with fine gauge chicken wire. The slender shoots will soon be pushing their way through the compost and towards the light. The great thing about peas (and also mange tout and broad beans, but NOT sweet pea flowers) is that you can eat the shoots. It’s a great idea to pinch out the growing tip so that the plants bush out, and you can eat this tip raw, add to salads or even to stir fries. Some gardeners grow pea shoots as an early spring vegetable and harvest the shoots completely as a vegetable. They have a mild pea flavour and are very tasty. You can also eat pea tendrils.

When the plant roots have filled the compost and the pea plants are growing vigorously this is a signal to plant them outside. Simply make a shallow trench in the garden a similar length to the guttering and then slide the compost and peas into this trench, covering over with more seed compost to ensure good contact between the pea plant compost and the garden soil below. Cover over with cloches to protect the developing plants and when they reach about 15cm tall, remove the cloches and provide hazel sticks as support for the developing plants. Peas have tendrils that will grasp the support and hold the plants upright keeping the developing plants clean and the pods free from soil. You can continue to harvest a few pea leaves and pea shoots as required. Don’t forget that the flowers need to be uncovered for pollinating insects to reach them so be sure not to cover them in fleece or fine netting when they are in flower. Harvest the pea pods when they are swollen with fat little peas but before they go woody, Mange tout can be harvested when they are 2-3cm long. If you make a sowing every fortnight from January you will extend the cropping season so that you can pick fresh peas for several weeks throughout the summer.

Click here to know more about greenhouses and the growing and sowing peas.

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