Peas

Peas - the best vegetable ever, especially with fish fingers !
Fresh peas straight from the pod have the sweetest taste. Copyright: kostman / 123RF Stock Photo

Peas fresh from the garden, and by that we mean up to an hour old, are one of nature’s delights. Supermarkets simply can’t produce a comparable crop because they can’t get it to the shops quickly enough. Fresh is most definitely best with this vegetable.

Growing peas is the cheapest option especially if you have the right growing areas in your garden. They are also one of the first vegetables grown by anyone starting out in gardening. Another great advantage of peas is their preference for cooler conditions and production of a crop early in the year. This makes them ideal for the British climate. With dwarf, semi-dwarf and climbing varieties one of them is sure to fit into your garden or allotment.

Good source of vitamin C, vitamin K and vitamin B1.

Difference Between Early And Maincrop Peas

When you buy your pea seeds they are classified as one of three types based on how long they take to be ready for harvest.

  • EARLIES

As the name suggests these can be harvested the earliest of all peas. They take about 12 weeks from sowing to harvest.

  • SECOND EARLIES

These are a sub-division of earlies and they take about 14 weeks from sowing to harvest

  • MAINCROP

These are the traditional, slightly later peas and take about 16 weeks to reach harvest time. This group includes the climbing peas.

Sowing And Growing Pea Seeds

Generally, seeds are best sown from March to June but there are some varieties which can withstand a UK winter enough to sprout once the first sun rays start warming the soil.

Peas sown in cold, wet ground will rot off, so make sure the soil is warm. In early spring, cover the soil with polythene before sowing and then protect seedlings with a fleece. Sow shorter varieties in a flat trench, 5cm (2in) deep and 25cm (10in) wide.

Water the trench first, then sow the seeds 5-7cm (2in) apart in three rows along the bottom of the trench. Backfill the trench with soil and firm the ground gently.

Many dwarf and semi-leafless varieties can also be sown in small blocks. Stagger seeds 13cm (6in) apart, pushing the seed to a depth of 5cm (2in) into the ground.

For taller varieties, sow seed in a single row 5-10cm (2-4in) apart, ensuring there’s enough space for plant supports. Make a single V-shaped drill, 5cm (2in) deep, water the base of the drill and sow the peas. A second row can be added, as long as it’s 30cm (12in) away from the first drill.

For a succession of peas, sow at two-week intervals.

Add a double row of twiggy supports straight after sowing, so that they form a Gothic arch. Harvest regularly.

You will need to sow plenty of seeds. “One for the mouse, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow” as the saying goes. Adding a few mangetout seeds to the end of a row will give you mangetout before your peas pod up.

They should be watered well, at least once a week as soon as they come into flower, in dry weather. Morning watering is the most efficient, as early summer nights can be chilly.

Picking

Pick regularly to encourage more pods. On average peas take 100 days to mature.

Pinch out the growing tips on later-sown peas as soon as the first pods are ready at the bottom of the plants, so that they concentrate their energies into filling the pods.

Fertilising peas

Peas as with all legumes should never be given a nitrogen-rich feed. They fix their own nitrogen by forming an association with certain bacteria in the soil. They have nodules on their roots which harbour bacteria allowing them to thrive by fixing nitrogen.

Problems With Peas

Birds and mice target newly sown peas. Sowing under cloches, or netting, will keep the birds off. Laying spiky gorse clippings, or holly leaves, on the seeds before drawing over the soil is a suggested preventative against mice.

The pea moth is attracted to peas that are in flower, laying their eggs on them. When they hatch they find their way to the pea pods and grow into caterpillars in there, eating the peas. If the moth is a problem in your area, protect the plants with fleece, or enviromesh. The pea moth is active mid-May to mid-June, so an early or late sowing is advisable.

Cultivars

Maincrop pea varieties

‘Twinkle’ (first early)

An early, self-supporting variety, but not a heavy cropper. However it is compact and disease resistant, so perfect for containers and small plots. 55cm (22″).

‘Avola’ (first early)

Perfect for containers and small plots due to its short height. Early maturing, producing an abundance of tender pods, each packed with up to 8 succulent peas of a superb sweet flavour. Surplus crops will freeze particularly well. 60cm (24”).

‘Hurst Green Shaft’ AGM (second early)

A tried and tested heavy-cropper that produces long easily picked pods. Never fails, producing 11 peas per pod. Good resistance to downy mildew and fusarium wilt. 75cm (30″).

‘Jaguar’ AGM (second early) AGM

An early high yielding pea with short pod containing seven dark, tasty peas on vigorous plants. Good resistance to downy and powdery mildew. Height: 70cm (28″).

cv. ‘Ambassador’ (maincrop) AGM

Outstanding resistance to mildew, so excellent in drier areas and also good for later sowing. Produces heavy yields of blunt ended pods, each containing up to 9 delicious, dark green peas on semi-leafless stems making picking easy.

cv. ‘Cavalier’ (maincrop) AGM

British-bred maincrop with pairs of long, straight pods containing nine peas – good flavour. Good powdery mildew resistance. 90cm (35″).

cv. Kelvedon Wonder (Early & Maincrop). A exceptional pea for any garden with strong winter resistance too. Produces full pods and with successional sowing will continue even into late Autumn. Grows to 45cm. Available from Mr. Fothergills

Mangetout varieties

Sow a few mangetout at the end of the row to produce edible pods after 70 days.

‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ AGM

Mature first and produces sweet, juicy pods. Easy and excellent for lightly steaming or stir fries.

‘Delikata’ AGM

Taller and heavier cropping than Oregon Sugar Pod – but can get stringy quickly.