Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Celebration & Pea Planting Demonstration - March 17th 10am!

The time for planting peas is close at hand, and St. Patty's day is a great day to get them in the ground.  The warm weather this week should put soil temperatures right where we want them for germination!  This post will contain some basic information to help you prepare for the event.

What is the difference between Vining and Bush style peas?

I grow both varieties of peas, and I stand 6'5" tall.  These are my vining peas in June, and as you can see they're approaching 7' tall.  When I finally took them down they had total vine lengths close to 10' and had flopped over.  Vining peas will totally dominate a raised bed and really aren't appropriate for our community garden setting.  If you have room for tall vines, however, the variety show in this picture is Sugar Snap, and it is easily my favorite variety of pea.

The peas in front of me in this picture are a bush variety Alaska in early June.  From here they'll grow an additional foot or so.  Bush varieties can be just as productive as vining varieties if not more so.  They are perfect for raised beds, and often require no supports or minimal support to grow.

What is the difference between the different varieties of Peas?
In addition to bush or vining you'll often see peas described as English(Shelling), Snap Peas, and Snow Peas.  In the image below you have Snow Peas on the left and Snap Peas on the right.

English varieties are grown specifically for shelling.  Their pods are often tough and stringy making it very difficult to eat.  It can take a lot of work to shell all your peas, but they are an amazing treat.  My favorite Bush English varieties of peas are Alaska and Laxton's Progress #9.

Snap Pea varieties are grown to be picked when the pod is full, and they have an edible pod.  They can be shelled like English varieties, but the pod is often the tastiest part.  My favorite Bush Snap Pea varieties are Sugar Ann and Sugar Daddy.  

Snow Pea varieties are grown to be picked before the peas have grown.  These are the big flat pods you'll often see in stir fry dishes.  Though they can be picked after the peas have formed, they're usually gain a bitter starchy flavor as the peas develop.  My favorite Bush Snow Pea variety is Oregon Sugar Pod II

Do you need to soak your peas before you plant them? 
You do not need to soak your peas before you plant them, and it can lead to the seed dying if the seed is planted in ground that is too cold and damp.  That said, if the ground is at least 40F and ideally between 50-55F then soaking your peas can speed germination.

I happen to soak my peas before I plant them most years.  With the mild winter and very warm weather we've had this is a year I'll be soaking.  To prepare the solution to soak them in I dissolve 75mg of Vitamin C(Half of your average over the counter tablet) in one quart of water.   There is research that the vitamin C aids early plant development, and as you can see from the pictures my peas do quite well.  I do want to stress, however, that you do not have to soak your seeds to have healthy plants!

What kind of support do I need for my peas?
The great thing about bush varieties is they don't need much support at all, but when the winds really get going in New England even the strongest bush pea plant can be flattened without some support.

Narrow Bamboo is perhaps the most versatile and easiest to use support for peas.  You can build a tepee with them and plant peas around the base, you can stick them in a straight line one  pole for every pea plant.  You can build a frame out of them and string twine between them.  You can plunge both ends into the ground to form hoops and grow the plants in the middle.  I'll have some on hand for demonstrations at the garden.

Galvanized Garden Fencing is what I use for all of my pea supports.  It can easily be worked into rounds with just a pair of wire cutting pliers, and will last through many seasons.  When the weather is particularly wet or windy you may need to support them with additional bamboo stakes.

If you have any additional questions feel free to ask and I'll add them to this post as edits.  Just send a mail to

No comments:

Post a Comment