Every Thursday, the Working for the Weekend segment highlights a project or job for Southeastern gardeners to tackle in the weekend ahead. Know of a project you’d like to see featured here, or a garden chore you’d like some help with? Make your suggestions in the comments section below.
Working for the Weekend:
Sow Peas Now for Spring Harvest
The groundhog assured us a few weeks ago that spring is coming early this year, though folks with a few inches on the snow on the ground right now might not agree. Still, March is right around the corner, and now is the time to get peas started for spring, if you haven’t already.
Peas are a cool-season vegetable, and should be started about a month before the last frost. Once summer heat sets in, powdery mildew generally means the end of the pea harvest. Luckily, peas are fast to germinate (often in only a couple of days, if the soil is warm enough) and easy to grow, and nearly everyone agrees that fresh peas from the garden are substantially better than those from a can or freezer. If you’re not a lover of peas yourself, consider growing them for birds in the neighborhood – they love to nibble on fresh seedlings.
What To Do:
- Choose the type(s) of peas you’d like to grow.
If you didn’t save seeds last year, hit your local garden center or browse seed catalogs for a wide variety of options, including heirloom seeds just like Grandma grew. Click here to learn more about the four basic pea types and decide which is best for you.
- Choose a location.
You can grow peas in the ground, of course, but they also do well in containers, an option that allows you to protect seedlings by bringing them under cover in case of a late frost. Choose a location where they’ll get plenty of sun, although some shade is generally also acceptable.
- Prepare the soil.
Peas aren’t all that picky, so you don’t need to fertilize or amend the soil unless it’s very poor. A little fresh compost is about all they really need. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 10 inches to allow the plant roots room to grow.
- Sow the seeds.
Poke the seeds into the ground about 2 inches apart and 1 inch deep, unless indicated differently on the seed packet. Water them in well – rainwater is best if you have it available from a rain barrel or cistern.
- Prepare a support system.
Most peas are vines and need support to spread and grow. You can use a store-bought trellis or create your own – try this easy trellis project from Birds & Blooms if you’re feeling handy. Bamboo or metal stakes are another simple option, and this year I’m really loving these spiral garden stakes for their space-saving and very efficient design. If you’re growing large amounts of peas, try building A-frame supports with string running throughout (see picture to left).
Now you’re ready to sit back and let the peas do the work. Make sure they have ample water, and protect them from any late frosts. Once they start to grow, you can help the vines along the supports, but most peas don’t need much from you until they’re ready for harvest – generally about 60 to 90 days.
What are your favorite peas to grow? Have you already started them in your area? Tell us your pea-growing tips and experiences in the comments!