Growing peas gives you the choice of climbing or dwarf varieties; there are so many varieties that peas can be sown at any time from February to November depending on the variety. Choose early varieties for sowing in February and March, main crop varieties for sowing in April and May, late varieties for sowing in June or even later, and winter-growing varieties for sowing in October and November. In the south early varieties may be picked as early as June, and the last of the late varieties mid October. Those varieties which grow over winter can be picked in early May of the following year. Sugar peas (mangetout) and petit pois are grown in exactly the same way. Freshly picked, young sweet and tender, garden peas, are a feast, which can be eaten just straight from the pod. As a vegetable to accompany a meal the rich colour add visual pleasure helping to stimulate our appetites and they can be include in many main course dishes.
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.
For early sowing choose a well-drained area, where the ground has been well prepared to provide aeration. 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 make 2 in.(50mm) flat-bottomed drills with a hoe. Allow the seeds 3 in. (76mm) of space between each. The distance between the drills will depend on the variety that is being sown. The width between the drills is equal to the height of the plants; 4 ft. (120cm) high varieties should be spaced 4 ft. (120cm) apart, 1-½ ft. (45cm) varieties should be 1 ½ ft. (45cm) apart. 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 encouraged to climb, this can be done by erecting posts at the end of each row, between these fasten wire to which plastic netting can then be attached that should run the full length 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. If you are growing Mange tout varieties pick before the pods have swollen. Pick the peas as near to the time you intend to cook them as possible to retain the sweetness, few of the ones that I grow get the chance to come into the kitchen for they are generally eaten on site, (lost remembered days of childhood). 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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