It’s St. Patrick’s Day and pea planting time is upon us. It’s a springtime ritual, is said to be a tradition that will brink Good Luck and is one of the most satisfying vegetables to plant with kids. The pods are not only fun to find and open, tender sweet peas are an ideal snack for a warm day in the garden.
The soil should be somewhere around 50 degrees, damp but not too wet. Where to plant your peas depends on the sun, you’ll want to get at least 4 hours of direct sunlight, but 6 hours would be better. Peas are a cold weather crop and they do well when the days are still chilly. Once they’ve germinated and grown a couple of inches, you can keep the soil cool and the pods dry and clean by mulching with straw or shredded leaves. The good news is that peas, along with other legumes, don’t need excessively rich soil. They feed themselves by pulling nitrogen from the air and storing it in nodules that grow on their roots. If you leave those roots in the ground after the plants die, they will improve the soil for the next crop you plant there.
Just scratch out a shallow furrow and plant the seed (pea) about 1 1/2″ deep and 1″ apart. You can push the pea into the soil until your finger is covered up to your middle knuckle, that’s about right. You should start seeing their little sprouts poke out in 6 to 14 days. Don’t worry if they are planted close together, they grow better in when planted thickly.
Sometimes, peas from a seed packet are pink instead of green. These have been coated with inoculant, a bacteria that helps the plant receive proper nutrition. If your peas are green, for the highest yield, you can buy a packet of a specially formulated inoculant. This is PURELY optional, though it is especially helpful if you’re planting in a brand new garden spot. Simply coat the seeds by gently shaking in a jar or bag with the inoculant or sprinkle some of the powder into the planting furrow. Just make sure the powder has contact with your seed.
Peas, both vining and bush types, need support. Staking helps to keep them safer from insects and mildew and keeps them cleaner too. When pea season is over, you can use your trellis for cucumbers.
There are lots of different kinds of peas to grow: shelling peas, sugar snaps and snow peas. Sugar snaps are easy and obviously don’t require the time spent shelling because you eat the pods. Even so, shelling time is worth the effort for the taste of shelling peas so save some room to experiment and plant both to see which variety you like best. You can extend your pea season by planting some seeds now and then some more in a week or two.
Once the peas are ready to be picked, find some tasty recipes to prepare, if any of them make it from the garden to the dinner table. We found this one to share…
English Peas and Buttermilk Potatoes
4 red potatoes
1 cup shelled English peas
1/4 cup buttermilk
1-2 T butter
Lots of salt and pepper
I cut up the potatoes and nuked them for about 5 minutes. I boiled the peas in salted water until al dente. Drain everything and pop it back into the pot to dry out a bit. Add the buttermilk and butter and start mashing. Easy PEAsy!