From the Desk of Ed Hume: Garden Peas

February 21, 2011 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

It’s time to plant garden peas!

For decades, George Washington’s birthday (February 22nd) was the day that many home gardeners set aside to plant garden peas.  However, weather plays an important part in actually choosing the best time to plant peas.  If the soil is too wet or if weather conditions are too cold, pea planting should be delayed until conditions improve.  The way I test soil condition is to simply scoop up a handful of soil, squeeze it, and if water oozes out it’s too wet and too early to plant peas.

Growing garden peas is a “must” at our home.  There’s nothing like being able to go out and pick garden peas fresh from the vine.  In fact, I would guess that close to 90 percent of all our picked peas are eaten in the garden and only about 10 percent ever make it into the kitchen.  But those that do make it inside, Myrna mixes with new potatoes and gravy, what a treat…and the whole family knows spring has arrived.

We have a limited raised bed vegetable garden, so we grow the bush garden peas.  People with more space seem to like the taller pole type vining peas even better.  One definite advantage of the pole type garden peas is that you don’t have to bend over as much when picking them.

Be certain to check the vines regularly to determine when the peas are ripe.   They have great flavor and high nutritional value when ripe, but are tasteless and tough when over-ripe.

When you sow the seeds of bush peas or pole beans, cover them with 1 to 1 ½ inches of fine soil.   Bush peas can be planted in rows, spacing the seeds about 2 inches apart.  Pole peas can be planted in rows or in mounds.  Either way they will need pole or trellis support.  If weather and soil conditions permit early planting, you may want to stagger plantings at 3-week intervals, which provides a longer harvest time.

In recent years some home gardeners have complained about the pea seeds not germinating.  If you have experienced that happening I would suggest you look for the seed you planted.   Chances are the seed is gone!  Birds, soil insects, and/or voles are usually the culprits.  Or, if the soil is too wet, the seeds will actually rot.

There are countless varieties of peas, but some of the favorites at the Hume household are the Sugar Snap type peas.  They come in both the pole type and bush varieties.  For example, we like the bush variety “Sugar Ann.”  In the pole type, both the “Sugar Snap Pole” and “Super Sugar Snap” are wonderful varieties.

In the standard varieties of peas, a good pole variety is “Tall Telephone,” also known as “Alderman.”  In the bush type, Alaska (earliest), Grey Sugar, Green Arrow, Laxton’s Progress, Lincoln, Little Marvel, Sugar Lace, Sugar Sprint, and Tacoma are popular.

Among the most popular snow type (flat pod) peas are Mammoth Melting Sugar, Oregon Giant, and Oregon Sugar Pod II.

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