Caring for Your Pea Plants
Peas are commonly grown in vegetable gardens. There are many varieties of pea plants. The most common, household garden variety is the shelling type. Common shelled pea variations include the sugar pea, snap pea, snow pea and garden pea. Maintaining a healthy pea crop isn't difficult but it does require a systematic approach.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Growing peas in raised beds helps with weeding and allows you to control soil quality."
Weeds are a perennial problem in most pea gardens. You can address this issue by planting peas in widely-spaced rows. This facilitates manual weed removal. Using an iron rake, plow regularly through the rows to negate new weed growth. Mulching acts as a natural weed-removal system by arresting growth of new weeds.
Aphids can destroy young pea vines. They are known to spread difficult-to-control diseases like mosaic. This can be prevented by spraying a mixture of soap, oil and water over the plants. Slugs are also attracted to pea vines. You can use slug bait to remove them. If the slugs appear seasonally, handpicking them is equally effective. Wilt is a fungal infection that often begins in the root section of the pea plants. Remove the wilted pea plants and burn them, as pesticides are ineffective against wilting. However, wilting can be prevented through rotating a crop. Rotate your pea crop every 2 to 3 years to maintain soil nutrition and prevent wilting.
These plants require a highly-moisturized soil bed. Therefore, watering peas on a regular basis is unavoidable.
TIP: Susan suggests, "Install a drip irrigation system for best results."
If your garden has a high density of quick-draining, sandy soil, plant the peas in 3 inch deep trenches. Trenches elongate the water absorption by the soil bed, helping to keep the soil bed moisturized for a longer period. To ensure that the soil doesn't dry-up, mulch the pea plants. Use organic mulch for this purpose. Mulching with dry manure or straw helps to retain the moisture around the grounded part of the plant. Mulching also helps in temperature regulation. Young pea plants are vulnerable to hot climatic conditions and a mulched soil bed keeps the surroundings cooler.
TIP: Susan recommends, "Once pea seeds sprout, provide 1/2 inch of water each week until they bloom. Increase water supply to 1 inch per week until pods swell."
Fertilizing peas isn't a major issue, since they are naturally rich in essential nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. However, to ensure that there is no dearth of nutrients, fertilize the soil bed before planting. Fertilize every 100 square feet of the garden soil with about 4 pounds of a commercial NPK fertilizer. If your prefer using organic fertilizers, try bone meal or dried manure.
Harvesting peas is a slightly tricky proposition. It is critical to be sure about the harvesting time. Most pea varieties are ready to harvest in about 60 to 70 days. Ensure that the pods feel full and are at least 2 inches long. Harvest the peas early in the morning, as the pods are crisper and can be easily picked. Begin picking the pods from the bottom, i.e. start at the base and slowly work your way, up the vine.
Peas are essentially vines that need surrounding structures to cling upon to establish external support. Their tendrils need some initial guidance to stimulate the climbing behavior. You can provide this support in the form of a trellis, mesh or fencing. You can also stake the pea plants with wooden stakes. Another alternative is using a chicken wire.