Aren’t peas wonderful? Everyone likes peas. Small children roll them around on highchair trays and poke them up their noses. Older children blow them at each other through straws. Bags of frozen peas soothe the toe that was smashed by the garden brick. Pease porridge hot was a staple dinner (and breakfast and lunch) during the otherwise unenlightened Middle Ages. According to Wikipedia “Various legumes, like chickpeas, fava beans and peas were also common and important sources of protein, especially among the lower classes. With the exception of peas, legumes were often viewed with some suspicion by the dietitians advising the upper class, partly because of their tendency to cause flatulence but also because they were associated with the coarse food of peasants.” Well. We know better.
Peas are very easy to grow here in the Pacific Northwest. Common garden legend here states that peas should be sown (1) on St. Patrick’s Day, (2) when the forsythia blooms, or (3) when the first hummingbird arrives. I choose number 1.
Choose pea varieties according to whether you want to stake them or not. Apparently you can get a bigger crop with the tall staked kind. I don’t have a tall pea trellis so I usually plant Tacoma, an afila type bush pea. Afila means “a plant with few leaves but many tendrils that help suport it by locking on to the neighboring plants.” See Ed Hume seed catalog. These peas grow rampantly, and I usually end up wrapping the bed with string to keep things tidy.
Prepare the pea bed by raking out lumps and amending with compost or steer-compost. There are two ways I plant those crispy seeds. If I’m patient, I’ll poke a hole every two inches in the bed. With my finger. When that becomes monotonous, I’ll just lay a pea on top of the soil every two inches, in rows four inches apart, and go back and poke the seed into the soil, an inch deep.
This year I noticed that a week later some of the peas had burped back up to the top of the soil. What’s that all about! I just gently put them back in holes. Some had tiny roots starting so I was careful.
Keep them damp but not too wet. Of course, this IS the Pacific Nortwest where, if you believe it, it rains ALL the time. Nonsense. Just make sure your bed is well drained. Fluffy soil. Raised beds are best.
You must realize that I am compulsive. And deathly afraid of frost. So, after planting, in March, I left a winter plastic cover over the peas. I left the plastic open at both ends for ventilation and to keep the bed from getting too hot. Closed plastic tents can boil your plants if the sun comes out (yes, IF! – this is the Pacific Northwest after all.) Wouldn’t want pease porridge sloshing around in the garden.
The wooden supports under the hoops and plastic were a new addition this year. They support the hoops in the event of snow, which has been known to weigh so heavily on the plastic that hoops and plants have been smashed to the ground. Not this year, though.
The next problem, after possible freezing snow, is birds. Birds have been known to dine heartily on lovely baby pea sprouts. They do it every year. But only to me apparently. Perhaps it’s because there is a bird feeder in the pear tree next to the garden. So after consuming huge quantities of dry seeds, the birds spy a juicy sprout and think “Ah, five servings of fruits and vegetables required here” and head straight under the plastic for the sprouts. So, I foil their attempts to ruin my peas by covering the bed with nylon netting. This also keeps out the crows, who will destroy a garden just for the fun of it, and the cats, dogs, and stumbling people.
So, there you have it. The peas are planted. This year I planted on March 21st. Later than St. Patrick’s Day, but it was raining that weekend. The sprouts were well on their way by April 8th. We shall see what happens next.
Hopefully this year’s peas will be as happy as the peas were in 2006.
Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold
Pease porridge in a pot, nine days old.
Some like it hot, some like it cold.
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.