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How to grow your own garden peas

How to grow your own garden peas

Garden and food writer Rekha Mistry shares a guide to growing garden peas from her new book, Rekha’s Kitchen Garden

Easy to grow and not requiring tall supports (especially the dwarf varieties), peas are a great option for first-time vegetable growers. They are at their absolute sweetest when freshly picked and cooked for the minimum of time, but getting them from your plot to the kitchen can be difficult. This is why gardeners say peas are the hardest vegetables to “save”. 

"Every time I harvest the ripe pods, I’m tempted to slide the fresh green peas straight into my mouth"

I agree. Every time I harvest the ripe pods, I’m tempted to slide the fresh green peas straight into my mouth. Resistance in my case is futile: the only solution would be to tape my mouth shut before I go near my pea plants! Yet I rarely feel guilty munching my peas on the allotment, because my family aren’t partial to them at all. I know. How can you not like fresh peas? Oh well, more for me!

Sowing undercover

By early March, I’ve sanitised the greenhouse and given it a thorough spring clean. Now it’s time to sow peas, which don’t mind cold temperatures. After filling Rootrainers with peat-free potting compost, I sow a single pea in each, at a depth of 4–5cm (11⁄2–2in).

"Now it’s time to sow peas, which don’t mind cold temperatures"

Germination takes less than two weeks and as soon as this happens, I move the seedlings in their Rootrainers out of the greenhouse into the cold frame, and start the hardening-off process. As the young peas acclimatise to outdoor temperatures, they continue to put on healthy green growth. 

Planting out

In early April, on the day of planting out, I add a bucket of garden compost to the area where the peas will grow and work it into the soil. I then mark out a row with my stringline and plant the seedlings along one side of the string at 10cm (4in) intervals.

Sowing garden peas - how to grow your own garden peas

After firming in each plant in the row, I remove the string and start another row, 15–20cm (6–8in) away from the first. Because these rows are fairly close to each other, the twining pea tendrils will latch on to each other and provide support as they grow. Even so, at this point I also give them a little help by inserting a few spent raspberry canes among the seedlings. After watering in, I put down a beer trap close to the tender seedlings. 

Direct sowing and routine care 

Peas can be sown outdoors in April, and although I sow mine undercover, I make a direct sowing of peas in August. By the time the plants from this second sowing are in flower, the pea moth is no longer active.  

For outdoor sowings, I dig a narrow trench, 15cm (6in) wide and 5cm (2in) deep, creating ridges of soil on either side of the trench. The seeds are sown at 5cm (2in) intervals along both outer edges of the trench, just inside the ridges of soil. After marking the start and end of each row with a short cane, I back-fill with the soil from the ridges and water in. Germination takes 10 days, and when the plants are around 8cm (3in) high, I’ll insert spent raspberry canes for additional support, just as I did when I planted out my indoor-sown peas. 

"From June to the end of August, the pea moth is on the wing and looking for pea flowers"

As soon as flowers appear in May, I give the plants a weekly comfrey or liquid seaweed feed as well as watering them once a week. If we have a very dry spring, I’ll increase the frequency of watering to two to three times a week. 

From June to the end of August, the pea moth is on the wing and looking for pea flowers. By this time the flowers on my indoor-sown peas will have faded so won’t be susceptible to attack. Peas sown outdoors in April, however, will need to be covered from May onwards with fine netting, to keep the insects out. 

Harvesting 

Peas are ready to pick around six weeks after the flowers have faded, and I can harvest my early sown pods in late June, knowing they won’t have been nibbled by pests. The peas I sowed outdoors in August have flowers by mid-September, when the pea moth is no longer flying, and I can be picking healthy pods (and munching fresh peas) around the end of October. 

Rekha's Kitchen Garden by Rekha Mistry

Rekha's Kitchen Garden by Rekha Mistry, available now (DK, £18.99) 

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