Peas are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. Originally the tender tops of the plants were cooked along with the pea pods You will see peas grouped as shelling, snap, sugar and snow peas. Sugar and snow peas have edible pods. Peas are also categorized as either tall, semi-dwarf and dwarf varieties. Older varieties were all tall.
You can plant in spring, as soon as the soil can be worked, however an early planting will not necessarily germinate any earlier than if you wait for the ground to warm. Peas are a cool weather crop, but they don't like soil that is cold or wet. The seeds can survive a frost, but not the plants. Once temperatures steady at 70 degrees F., pea plants begin slowing down and die.
You will sometimes see peas and beans sold with a bacteria inoculant that forms nitrogen converting nodules on the roots of legumes and helps in starting plants. The inoculant can't work if the seeds have already been treated with a fungicide to prevent rot. The fungicide is a bright pink, to alert you that it is there. Peas also do best with a soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5.
All types of peas need some type of support while growing trellising can be done with fencing, mesh, bushy cut tree and shrub branches or other plants. Because of the trellising, peas are usually planted in rows or bands of about 3-4 inches. Cover the seed with only an inch or two of soil and firm.
Extend your harvest season by re-planting in 2 week successions. Or plant pea varieties that mature at different rates. To keep harvesting as long as possible, plant an early season variety, a main season type and maybe even a heat tolerant late season pea.
If space in the vegetable garden is a consideration, there are low growing, attractive varieties that can be included in the flower garden. The vines will need to be removed after harvest, when they begin to turn brown.
The biggest problem of pea plants is root rot, which causes the foliage to turn brown and die. Insuring the soil is well-drained and rotating your pea crop each year will help.
Unstaked pea plants can fall over on themselves and make a great hiding place for slugs and aphids. So think about peas for your vegetable garden. Here we go the spring planting is starting, but take time to see how everything is. Just because the air temperature is warm, the soil temperature is still cold. It is only the middle of April and we can have some cold, even freezing temperatures yet, so think about what you are wanting to plant. Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa