The asparagus pea is an unusual crop of rectangular pods, which are eaten whole when they are about 1 ½ in. (38mm) long. This is a prolific cropper with very attractive dark red flowers.
Four weeks before sowing, add well-rotted compost and manure into the soil to a depth of 9 in. (228mm) at the rate of a bucketful to the yard. Two weeks before sowing rake in a top dressing of fish manure or bone meal at a rate of 4 oz. (120g) to the sq. yd; alternatively, rake in a mixture of 2 oz.(60g) carbonate of lime and 1 oz. (30g) sulphate of potash to the sq. yd.
Choose a well-drained area, where the ground has been well prepared to provide aeration. Asparagus peas must not be grown in the same plot as in the previous year. Avoid sowing seeds in soils that are wet and cold as they can sometimes be attacked by fungus, then germination is poor. To sow the seeds in 2 in. (50mm) deep drills in April they can be thinned out later allowing 18 in. (45cm) between plants; the distance between the drills should be 3 ft. (90cm). Give the plants protection from birds by placing small twigs over the soil, or use black cotton stranded from pegs close to the ground.
When the seedlings are about 3 in. (76mm) high, they should be given support so that they to not sprawl over, this can be done by erecting posts at the end of each row on both sides of the plants, between these fasten string so that there is support from both sides of the row. As soon as the flowers appear the crop should be given an adequate amount of water in order for the pods to grow plump and juicy and to prevent them becoming stunted. Mulching is a good idea because it helps to retain moisture.
Pick the pods frequently when they are ready to encourage even more pods. Harvest the peas as near to the time you intend to cook them as possible to retain the flavour. When the plants have finished fruiting, cut off the stems and put them onto the compost heap, allow the roots to remain in the ground so that they can fix nitrogen into the soil.
Terry Blackburn. Internet Marketing Consultant, living in South Shields in the North-East of England. Author and Producer of blog http://www.lawnsurgeon.blogspot.com Author of "Your Perfect Lawn," a 90 Page eBook devoted to Lawn Preparation, Lawn Care and Maintenance. Find it at http://www.lawnsurgeon.com
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