Pods of peas
Frozen peas can never match the sweetness and tenderness of homegrown garden peas, especially when they’re eaten straight from the pod. What better way to introduce children or grandchildren to the delights of veggie gardening? They are good for the garden too, and are used to fix nitrogen in the soil, which benefits future crops. In cold, frosty areas, the veggies slow down and so can you, but not in frost-free subtropical areas, where it is the best time for growing veggies. Sow now and enjoy summer veggies before they are available anywhere else. What a treat!
Know your peas
Regular garden peas have the best nutritional content but need to be shelled. Climbing varieties are good for vertical gardening, especially in small gardens, and give a better yield per square metre. Bush varieties require very little attention, but yield less. ‘Mangetout’ is French for ‘eat all’ and refers to the variety with large, flat pods that are tender yet crunchy and can be eaten whole. The pea seeds never really develop. They are also called snow peas. Sugar snap peas are a cross between a garden pea and mangetout, and have plump and round pods, like garden peas. The pods can be eaten when they start to swell, or they can be left to fill out and then shelled like normal peas. They are sweeter than garden peas and are not stringy.
Planting and Growing Guide
- Sow in rows directly into the ground, or into pots for transplanting later.
- Keep soil moist during germination, but once established do not overwater as cold, wet soil encourages damping off.
- Sow batches of seed every 2-3 weeks for an extended supply.
- Support bushy plants by drawing up the soil around the stem. (Not advised in Winter-rainfall areas)
- Mulch plants to keep the soil moist.
- Support bushy plants by drawing the soil up around the stem.
- Do not overfeed or overwater during the early growth stages because this produces too many leaves and not enough flowers.
- Once flowering starts, water more frequently and, if necessary, feed weekly with a liquid fertiliser.
When to plant
Garden peas need warmth to germinate, cool weather for growing and will not flower if the days are too short. They should ideally be timed to grow in winter and flower after the frost. Sowing times vary from region to region and sowing guides are just that – guides. Work out your best time to sow based on your own microclimate. Peas need plenty of winter sun and fertile, well-composted soil that has been deeply dug over. If possible, work lime into the soil 3-4 weeks before planting.
Peas should be ready for picking within three months. The more you pick, the better the plants produce. For best nutritional value, eat peas as soon as possible after picking. Garden peas are ready for harvesting when the pods are plump, but not full to bursting. Larger, older peas are not as sweet. Snow peas (mangetout) just produce edible pods. They don’t lose their sweetness as quickly as garden peas, and can be stored for longer. Sugar-snap peas are a cross between snow peas and garden peas, and are also cultivated for their edible pod. The pods are fatter than snow peas, and may need stringing.
If you have run out of mulch, use left over black shade cloth, weed-guard, black plastic ‘pond’ sheeting or squares of old carpet instead. Make a slit or small hole and place it around the plant like a collar. It is a lot cheaper than buying mulch.