Served simply with mint and butter, these sweet and tender vegetables are a gardener’s delicious reward after harvest.
Peas are grown in holes about 5cm deepand 8cm apart in furrows. Trellising orsome other means of support is necessary for climbers.
The plants prefer well-drained and oxygenated soil. Enrich clay soil with good compost to improve drainage.
Peas grow better from seeds than as seedlings, as the plants don’t like having their roots disturbed.
Plant peas in the cooler weather of late summer or late winter. They can withstand light frost, making the planting times in different climactic regions more flexible, but the flowers and young pods are fairly sensitive. The ideal temperature for planting is between 15ºC and 18ºC. In colder regions, July is the best time as the danger of frost is slight, while elsewhere May and June are the best planting times.
Water peas well at least once a week toencourage large, juicy pods. The plantshave a shallow root system, but won’t need additional compost if they are planted in soil with a pH of six to seven, and high levels of phosphates and potassium.
Don’t allow the soil to dry out but keep the pressure low if you’re watering with a hosepipe, otherwise you’ll wash away the soil – and the seedlings. Spread a generous mulch of straw or sawdust to improve moisture retention.
Peas need six to eight hours of sunlight per day.
Most peas can be harvested after100-120 days, depending on the varietyand the weather. Read the instructions onthe back of the seed pack, or consult yournursery. Peas are prolific – so the more you harvest, the more a plant will fruit.
Peas are at their best when they’re harvested at the right time. Check the pods for ripeness as harvesting too early will result in a meagre quantity of underdeveloped peas; they’ll be fibrous, without their characteristic crisp sweetness. Pods should develop evenly and be bright green, with no irregularities.
Use both hands to harvest peas as the stems snap easily – hold the stem in one hand while snapping off the pods with the other.
Pests and diseases
The biggest threats to peas are root rotand cutworms, of which the Americanbollworm is the most notorious. Avoid overwatering the plants and use organic insecticides to control worms. Also watch out for white down on leaves, stems, and pods. Nurseries will recommend a suitable fungicide, but sulphur is still one of the home gardener’s most effective weapons.
Keep weeds between the plants at bay by spraying Igran 500 or Terbutryn.
Rotate peas seasonally with non-leguminous crops such as root vegetables to prevent fungal diseases from building up in the soil.
Did you know? Mangetout, French for‘eat all’, refers toimmature peas which areeaten pod and all, suchas sugar and snow peas.