Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Sowing and growing peas

Plastic rain gutter + compost + peas

Real spring weather has yet to settle in here, but seed sowing and general preparation carry on all the same, in anticipation of the season finally turning.

Keep the compost moist
as they sprout.
Yesterday it was the peas' turn to start their journey of another year. Last year we tried the excellent rain guttering method of sowing and pregrowing the peas. It worked very well, so we're sticking with it.

All you need is a few sections of plastic guttering, filled up with compost. Quite a bit of compost is needed, so definitely use homemade stuff if you can. Don't use super long sections - they have to be easy to transport around. End caps can be helpful in keeping the compost in; they can be removed at the sliding stage.

Slide them in! A knock against
a post can help if they're stuck.
Sow the peas as you normally would. We use a pencil to make a hole, drop the pea in and cover over. Keep the compost moist as the peas sprout and start to grow.

When it's time to plant them out, the real beauty of this method becomes apparent. Dig a shallow trench alongside your pea fence (or whatever arrangement you have in place for the peas to climb up). Then just slide the whole lot out from the guttering into the trench. This means minimal disturbance to the seedling roots and greatly reduced transplant shock.

Tender shoots are a terrible
temptation to birds.
Firm them in with the soil excavated from the trench, water, net them over, to protect from marauding blackbirds, and you're done. The netting can be removed once the pea plants have reached 'critical mass', i.e. when it would be hard for a blackbird to pull one out.

We usually plant peas for podding on one side and mangetout on the other side of the fence to avoid confusion at what stage to pick the pods! Once the peas are ripe and plentiful we collect as much seed as possible. Some of it can be sown again straight away, for pea shoots if winter comes early or for a second crop if not.

Overwintering peas

Can't wait to see them
looking like this again.
We're really big pea fans and, to get some of that fresh flavour we crave as early as possible in the season, we also grow some Douce Provence peas (the best variety for overwintering) over winter in the greenhouse. These we do exclusively with our own saved seed, since the casualty rate can be high, depending on the severity of the winter. We sow them around the end of October or early November, in the same pots and using the same climbing strings that will subsequently belong to the tomatoes.

Last year that yielded us our first peas on the 20th of April, a real treat to start the season. It might be a little later than that this time around, but they're flowering already.

Overwintering in the greenhouse: early peas.

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