Saturday, January 23, 2016

End of Season Review - Peas


Peas are a favourite around here – especially sugar snap peas.  I have been growing them for a few years now and they are always such a special treat.

Sugar Snap Peas

Shelling peas were new to the garden this year & I grew 2 bush varieties – Aladdin PVP and Sabre.

Freshly Shelled Peas

This past year I wanted to sow the peas early (to test the “as soon as the ground can be worked” theory) & was planning on covering the bed with plastic in the very early spring.  My plan was thwarted, however, when I couldn’t get into the shed due to an ice build-up in front of the door.  Lesson learned – place any supplies that you may need in early spring in the garage.

My attempt at gaining access to the shed

I finally got into the shed on March 29th and placed the plastic on the beds.  By April 10th, the soil was still too cool, registering a temperature of 5C (41F).  The next couple of days were gorgeous, however, and that did the trick – by April 12, the soil temperature had gone up to 14C (57F) and I was able to sow the seeds.

Other than an earlier sowing, the other big change this year was a proper trellis.  Every method I had tried in the past was not adequate for one reason or another.  In 2014, my attempt using jute was a particularly bad fail.

This time round I decided to try cattle panel and it worked out amazingly well.  No flopping, sagging pea vines, no time-consuming trellis building with copious amounts of string, and no plastic trellis to tediously cut twisted vines away from.

Cattle Panel trellis supporting tall favas and sugar snaps

At the end of the season, I simply ripped the vines right from the metal panels – no fuss, no muss.   It took me 3 years, but I finally found my pea trellis solution.

The original panels were 8’ long and ended up being much too tall considering that the beds are almost 1’ off the ground already.  I cut 1.5’ off the top and used these 20” sections as support for the shelling peas.  I placed one panel on each side of the row, attached to rebar that had been sunk into the soil, and it worked out quite well.

The offcuts from the cattle panel were the perfect size
for supporting the short shelling pea vines

Both of the varieties I grew were quite short, neither growing much past 2’, so this was all the support they needed.

When it came to the snap peas, I'm convinced that proper trellising made all the difference – this year, the yield increased by 50% from last year’s 444 grams (0.98 lbs) per square foot.




One thing that surprised me was the harvest period.  In 2014, I sowed the seed on May 2nd & harvested sugar snaps from July 1st - August 10th.  This year, I sowed them 3 weeks earlier, but the harvest period started only 3 days sooner.  I suppose I should not have been as surprised as I was considering I do recall Daphne writing about sowing peas earlier and seeing little difference in when they matured.

For the shelling peas, I have no comparators as this was my first year growing them.  I had always heard that shelling peas were not worthwhile growing as they didn’t produce very much for the space they occupied.  Well, I for one, was very impressed with their production.




Those are actual numbers – how strange that they added up to exactly 1 kg!  We only occasionally eat cooked peas, so this was more than enough for us to enjoy some fresh (raw, actually!) and have a bag left over to freeze.

Both varieties were equally sweet & produced their crop within a relatively tight window.  Aladdin is a particularly good choice for freezing as all of the pods matured within a 3 day period.

Aladdin Shelling Peas

Sabre, however, produced almost twice the quantity and the picking period was not that much longer at 7 days.

Sabre Shelling Peas

There were a few stragglers for each variety, which I left on the vines for a week or so.  These were then dried & will be used for seed.


Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year

It was a very good year for peas.  Since they were planted early and the heat of summer (& subsequent watering issues) didn’t kick in until late June, they were one of the few crops that didn’t suffer from inadequate irrigation.

After 2 years of pea trellis fails, I finally have a good trellising method, both for the climbing peas and the short bush types – YAY!  No more experimentation needed on that front.

Shelling peas are here to stay.  Based on what I had heard in the past, I expected to harvest barely enough peas for one meal from my planting.  So you can imagine how impressed I was by their actual productivity, especially as they occupied only a small 2’ x 7’ spot that later became available for another crop (an experimental late sowing of zucchini, which did end up producing a few fruits).

Next year, I’ll be growing the same 2 shelling pea varieties in the same manner & utilizing their spot in the bed for another crop (as yet undecided) once they are done.   I’ve been growing “Sugar Snap” peas from saved seed for a few years and will continue to do so next year.  I'm also planning to add a snow pea to the mix.

One thing that I really want to try next year is a succession sowing of the sugar snaps.  The spring sowing I've always done provides a steady supply of peas for about a week, then a glut for about 2 weeks, and then a steady supply for another week or so.  I'm wondering what would happen if I sowed half the space as usual, and then the other half in early summer.  Ideally, this would eliminate the glut and provide some fresh sugar snaps over a 2 month (vs. 1 month) period.  The only question is how would they fair during the heat of summer.

Since I stored the plastic and rebar needed to warm up the beds in the garage this winter, I will see if I can get those seeds in the ground even sooner than I did last year.  Of course, that all depends on what Mother Nature throws at us this spring.  If I find that early sowing once again makes little difference to when the vines start bearing, I'll likely go back to sowing in early May.  Why fuss with plastic and rebar if you don't have to.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

16 comments:

  1. Nice review on the peas, Margaret.
    I use those cattle panels for everything now and just love them. Easy to clean off in the fall as well.
    Sugar snaps are ALWAYS planted here and NEVER make it up to the house--great snacking while puttering in the garden!!
    :)
    As for shelling peas, I won't grow them because we do eat huge quantities and my patience for shelling is not huge. Ha!
    Hope your winter is going well. I'm loving it and yet can't believe how fast it's going. Cripes, we'll be out there before ya know it!
    Have a fun week

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    1. They are great for snacking aren't they. Even my picky "I don't like peas" daughter finally tried one this past year and is now a fan.

      This winter seems to be going by quicker than normal - maybe it's all these up and down temps that make it seem that way? I'm starting to get that old "anxiously waiting to plant those first seeds" feeling. A couple of days ago I stopped off at the local seed house & purchased some seed starting mix - as far as I'm concerned, that marks the start of the new season :)

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  2. I have big problems with peas. I love eating them, but hate growing them! In my garden they always suffer badly from mildew. Every few years I say "Never again", but then after a while I relent and have another go. 2016 is a "Relent" year! My method of supporting them is a piece of chicken-wire stretched between two wooden posts. I won't be sowing any for a few weeks yet.

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    1. I would be hard pressed to completely give up on a veg that I truly enjoyed. I'm looking forward to seeing how you get on with your peas this year - perhaps there are mildew resistant varieties you could try?

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  3. I dearly love sugar snap peas too! They are so good straight from the garden, so sweet. It's interesting that a 3 week head start produced only 3 days earlier. I've been growing snow peas pretty regularly for the last few years. The most frustrating thing about most of the snow peas I've tried is that they have a very short harvest period and I've ended up with too much at once, not good because I don't like them frozen. I haven't been very successful at doing succession plantings to stretch out the harvest. I have found that the yellow Golden Sweet snow peas have a longer harvest period, maybe because they are tall vining plants like the Super Sugar Snaps that I grow. So the last few times I've grown peas I've planted the two varieties on the same trellis, 8 or 9 plants of each, and that seems to produce just enough for fresh eating for the two of us.

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    1. That's exactly how I feel - we love sugar snaps, but it always seems like feast or famine. I tried freezing them as well, and like you, didn't enjoy them like that.

      I remember your yellow snow peas - I didn't realize they were climbing peas. The longer harvest definitely makes sense. I would love to squeeze those in this year - I'll have to take another look at what's growing on my trellises.

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  4. Peas taken straight from the pod and eaten raw are such a treat, aren't they? Very moreish too. The problem I have with peas is that if I find a critter inside the pod, it puts me off so I feel I have to net them, which causes problems if you're sowing a large batch. Wouldn't it be good if we could cover the whole plot with mesh which allows the pollinators in but keeps the nasties out? I tend to grow mangetout as they're less trouble.

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    1. They are delicious - I quite like them more than cooked peas.

      Finding something - other than peas - inside the pod would put me off as well. Thankfully, I didn't have that problem this year. Half my garden is covered with netting and each year I seem to add one or two more beds. Ha ha...a plot wide covering with "pollinator only" access...now THAT would be something!

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  5. I am surprised that you said the peas didn't suffer due to inadequate watering. We find that our peas are of one of the priorities for watering when the weather is dry. We were years trying to find a suitable climbing method for peas and in the end we have settled on hazel twigs as we have a couple of hazel bushes that we need to regularly cut back.

    We love at garden peas any way cooked or raw.

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    1. They really didn't suffer but that was because they were grown so early in the year when it was still cool and rainy - issues with lack of water didn't start until July, and the peas were basically done by then. I tried using twigs in the past but it didn't work out - I probably didn't to a good job when it comes to scavenging for the "best" twigs for the job :)

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  6. Nothing like growing your own shelling peas. I like sugar peas too. My problem is lack of room for everything! Nancy

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    1. I think that most gardeners can relate to that!

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  7. Hmm, I have a pH tester for soil but how do you test the temperature? I hope this isn't a silly question, I've never done that before?

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    1. There is NO such thing as a silly question :) They have actual soil thermometers that test the temp. You just stick them into the ground about 4" or so and it takes a reading. I purchased mine at Stokes:
      http://www.stokeseeds.com/product.aspx?ProductID=55708&search=thermometer

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  8. Fresh peas are so delicious and they taste do fresh! You just can't beat them. We have a problem here of it getting too hot too fast. Last year it was summer hot in early May and didn't cool off till Oct! I don't know much about veggie gardening but I sure learn s lot from your blog! Thanks so much!!

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    1. Oh, that's so nice of you to say, Chris! That's one of the great things about blogs - I have learned so much more from others blogs than from books, how-to sites, etc. Real people with real experiences....and the problems that go along with that!

      As for peas, there are heat tolerant varieties out there. Actually, one of the shelling varieties I grew - Aladdin - is supposed to be. When you look at seeds online or in a catalogue, it usually says if that is the case in the description...something to keep in mind come spring!

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