Pea plants need to climb. They produce tiny twisting tendrils which hook onto the support and off they go. The key word here is TINY. Unlike runner beans, which twine around their supports, pea supports need to be much finer for the tendrils to be able to catch, this is why many growers use nets. Traditionally though hazel was used, it is ready to coppice at the right time of year and produces thin stems which are just the right size. The main advantage with hazel is it is much easier to strip of the dead plants once they have finished copping and can be used for making insect homes. Netting can be reused but is not particularly strong so may start to fall apart when you strip the used plants away, it is also not biodegradable. Whatever you choose to use the supports need to be approx 1.5 meters high and built in a wigwam or tunnel.
Planning your crop
When planning your crop a single packet of seeds should produce a 4.5 meter log row and depending upon the variety should yield between 4 and 12 meals for a family of 4. You will get a better crop from a taller variety as there is more room to grow more pods. If you are short of space and want more plants Peas will grow nicely in containers. Remember that the plants can grow up to 1.5 meters tall so you need to think about position in the bed, you do not want to shade out the rest of your veg.
For the best results peas need a well drained soil. Early varieties in particular will be more likely to fail if the seeds are planted in soggy soil as they tend to rot. Dig over the plot a few weeks before you plan to sew and add some well rotted manure or compost.
Sewing the seeds
Sew the seeds in a drill approx 10 cm wide and 5cm deep. Stagger the seeds 5cm apart so that you have a diamond patterned row then loosely cover with soil and water them in. The plants will grow and mesh together, this is fine. Always sew a few spares as there will be a number of seeds that fail to germinate or plants that get slugged. Remember, if you are planning to grow different pea varieties, you will need to write up plant labels or markers to remind you which variety is which.
Maintaining a healthy crop
Once the plantlets start to show and before they get to more than 10 cm tall push in your supports, the sooner they start to climb the safer the plants will be from slugs. Early plantlets will benefit from the protection of a cloche. Use short twigs to support the early plantlets then erect the main supports once the cloche is no longer necessary.
Once your plantlets get going you will need to keep weeds at bay and keep them moist. Apply a mulch and water regularly in dry weather. You will be rewarded with beautiful pea flowers and before long a crop of flat pods with the promise of big fat juicy peas.
Hints and tips
- Once your plants have established 2 sets of true leaves pinch out the tops. This encourages a more vigerous and bushy plant
- Pea shoots are extremely tasty added to salads so dont compost the shoots you pinch out, eat them. If you want to grow pea shoots especailly for salads go to the eat peas section for more information.
- Slugs also like pea shoots. If the young crop is munched they may well shoot again so do not despair, however it might be handy to sew a few spare plants just in case.
- Peas do not continue to produce flowers once the pods produce their seeds. Plant new seeds every few weeks for a continuous crop if you have space
- If you want to grow your own seeds for next year leave a few pods to mature on the plants then dry and store untill needed