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Articles about Vegetable Crops for the Garden

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  How to grow organic Asparagus
  How to grow organic Aubergines
  How to grow organic Beetroot
  How to grow organic Broad beans
  How to grow organic Broccoli
  How to grow organic Brussels sprouts
  How to grow organic Cabbage
  How to grow organic Calabrese
  How to grow organic Carrot
  How to grow organic Cauliflower
  How to grow organic Celeriac
  How to grow organic Celery
  How to grow organic Celtuce
  How to grow organic Chinese broccoli
  How to grow organic Chinese cabbage
  How to grow organic Chicory
  How to grow organic Corn
  How to grow organic Cucumbers and Gherkins
  How to grow organic Endive
  How to grow organic Florence fennel
  How to grow organic French beans
  How to grow organic Garlic
  How to grow organic Globe artichokes
  How to grow organic Jerusalem artichokes
  How to grow organic Kale and borecole
  How to grow organic Kohl rabi
  How to grow organic Komatsuna
  How to grow organic Land cress
  How to grow organic Leaf beet
  How to grow organic Leeks
  How to grow organic Lettuce
  How to grow organic Mizuna
  How to grow organic Mustard greens
  How to grow organic New Zealand spinach
  How to grow organic Onions
  How to grow organic Parsnips and Hamburg Parsley
  How to grow organic Peas
  How to grow organic Peppers (hot and sweet)
  How to grow organic Potatoes
  How to grow organic Radishes
  How to grow organic Rocket
  How to grow organic Runner beans
  How to grow organic Salad onions
  How to grow organic Salsify, Scorzonera and Scolymus
  How to grow organic Seakale
  How to grow organic Shallots
  How to grow organic Spinach
  How to grow organic Squash
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  How to grow organic Turnips

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Organic Gardening:

How to grow organic Peas


Mange tout peas
Mange tout peas crop prolificly


Pisum sativum

Family: Leguminosae (Group 7)

Have you ever picked a pod and popped the fresh peas straight into your mouth? No? You should try it some time. There's nothing like that just-picked taste. Of course, you will probably grow most of your peas for cooking, but when you can just walk out into your garden and pick them to use right away, they're good enough to make a respectable addition to a salad.

There are two main types of pea grown in the UK, round-seeded and wrinkle-seeded (marrow-fat). For practical purposes they are usually divided into three cropping groups:

Round and first early wrinkled11-12 weeks to maturity
Second early wrinkled12-13 weeks to maturity
Maincrop wrinkled13-14 weeks to maturity

There are a few semi-leafless varieties, which are self-supporting, and purple-podded varieties with attractive purple flowers are also available, as well as mange touts or sugar snaps and petits pois.

Peas are a cool weather crop, growing best in Spring and cool Summers, disliking intense heat. Provided it has ample moisture, the summer crop can be grown in semi-shade.

Peas like an open but not exposed position. Soil should be fertile and deeply cultivated. A trench can be prepared 20cm (8") deep x 60cm (2') wide and filled with organic matter, on which the peas will grow well without requiring additional nitrogen. Ideal pH is 7.

Recommended varieties

Meteor30cm (1')Round-seeded   Good for cold exposed sites
Feltham First45cm (18")Round-seededRobust plants, early
Douce Provence45cm (18")Round-seededAs Feltham First, but sweeter
Kelvedon Wonder45cm (18")First earlyHigh mildew resistance
(Hurst's) Beagle45cm (18")First earlyVery early
Early Onward60cm (2')First earlyDisease resistant, heavy cropper
Hurst Green Shaft75cm (2'6")Second earlyVery disease resistant, heavy cropper, exhibition
Bikini45cm (18")Second earlySemi-leafless
Onward75cm (2'6")Second earlyDisease resistant, heavy cropper
Senator75cm (2'6")MaincropGood for small gardens, good flavour and yield
Lord Chancellor1m (3'6")MaincropHeavy cropper, late
Darkskinned Perfection   MaincropPurple pods
Carouby de Maussanne2m (6')Mange toutHeritage variety, good cropper, also for shelled peas
Oregon Sugar Pod1m (3'6")Mange toutWidely available, heavy cropper, pick pods at 7½cm (3")
Sugar Snap150cm (5')Mange toutOlder pods can also be stringed and eaten as 'french beans' or shelled for peas
Waverex60cm (2')Petits poisWidely available
Blue Capuchin Drying peaHeritage variety with greenish-brown peas
Victorian red-podded1.75-2m (5-6')Drying peaHeritage variety with red and purple flowers
Traditional pea drills
Peas sown in triple rows

Sowing is traditionally into a 15cm (6") wide drill, 5cm (2") deep, with seeds spaced 5-8cm (2-3") either way. Distance between drills should equal the expected height of the mature plants. Alternatively, they can be sown in rows at the same spacing. Early crops are sown closer together, to allow for expected losses due to cold, damp conditions.

A more recent recommendation is for triple rows, 11cm (4½") apart with seeds 11cm (4½") apart in the rows. Each triple row is 45cm (18") from the next. This latter method is said to encourage extended cropping.

Once the seed is sown, mouse traps can be set beside the rows, particularly for early and over-wintered sowings. Protect from birds with black cotton strung across the rows or with wire or net pea-guards. Fleece or cloches would also provide protection, and speed germination of early crops.

Unless conditions are very dry, watering is unnecessary until the peas start to flower, when 20 litres (4 gallons) per square metre/yard per week will increase both yield and quality.

Peas need support, which is traditionally provided by inserting pea sticks at regular intervals, to form small wigwams. However as peas can be subject to mildew if they are overcrowded, an alternative method has become popular, where the pea sticks are inserted on either side of the trench, leaning outwards in a sort of truncated V shape. More elaborate support can be provided in the form of pea netting or chicken wire strung between posts.

Finally, if growing in standard 120cm (4') wide beds, they can be spaced at 7½cm x 7½cm (3"x3"), and a strong netting fence around the outside is supposed to provide sufficient support, the plants in the middle supporting each other. To be honest, in my experience, it is very difficult to get at the centre portion of the crop at all if you grow them in beds like this, particularly if you get a good crop. My suggestion is that you have a couple of traditional trenches on either side of the bed, and leave the space between empty for extra airflow. You could put a few stepping stones or a scaffolding plank to walk on when you're picking, down this centre aisle, so you don't compact the ground too much.

Peas should be picked regularly to encourage cropping. Pods should be cut from the vines with scissors, to avoid damaging the plants, while they are still bright green and smooth, for the best tasting peas. If grown for drying, leave the plants and pods to dry in situ as long as possible, then hang whole plants in a dry, airy, sheltered place until the pods are dry enough to split open.

To produce peas fresh for the table from May to October, several different varieties need to be sown at different times:

For croppingSowType
May to Junemid-Feb to mid-MarchRound-seeded
June to Julymid-March to mid-AprilRound, first or second early
July to Septembermid-April to mid-MayMaincrop
August to SeptemberApril to MayManges touts and Petits pois
September to Octobermid-June to mid-JulyMildew-resistant first early wrinkled

Alternatively, sow a first early, e.g. Kelvedon Wonder, successionally.

Pests and Diseases

Birds and mice cause the most damage to unprotected crops.

Pea moths have maggots that bore through the pods and into the peas (If you grow early or late crops you may escape this pest).

Thrips are minute black or yellow insects which cause distorted pods and reduced yield.

Fusarium wilt is also on the increase; if affected the best approach is to stick to the resistant varieties which are available.

Cold wet conditions and/or overcrowding can lead to damping off and mildew.

If you're interested in healthy food, you may also be interested in our sister site, The Health Site, Your Online Health Channel.

Article ©2004 Frann Leach. All rights reserved.

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