When Sugar Snap peas first appeared in 1976, I almost quit on English, or garden peas, (Pisum satifum) because (1) these needed shucking and (2) my sugar snaps sold out every Saturday at the farmers’ market, no matter how many I picked. Sugar snaps were Mom’s perfect snack for kids with veggie issues. Unfortunately, they didn’t freeze worth a damn.

Then when I began growing for health and flavors again, and not for gain, it was back to garden peas because, among other things, these are Nature’s perfect vegetable to freeze for winter. Beans, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli never stay crunchy in the freezing process but peas always do. And shucking is an ideal enterprise while watching a baseball game, or holding a conversation about politicians.

Come to think of it, if people in Washington spent more time growing peas and less time talking and signing stuff, we’d all be better off.

As to when to plant, I say do it whenever you damn well please — so longs it’s early spring. Seedsman always suggest March plantings, which is borderline insane because cold, wet dirt takes all the fun out of planting. I shoot for April.

My favorite tools for this are my Mantis tiller, a steel rake, and a “broom” rake with flexible steel tines about 6 inches wide at the business end. I churn up a path in the soil, then pull the loose soil back with a rake to make a nice, 6-inch-wide recessed bed for the peas. I rake this smooth with the little broom rake, then broadcast the peas thickly, maybe an inch apart or less, and cover them with an inch of soil, and some leaves to keep the bed damp.

Before you do this, soak your peas in a watertight plastic bag with warm water for a few hours. Once the peas are swollen and most of the water gone, drain the remaining water out and shake some black soil inoculant powder into the bag, kneading it around to cover the wet peas. These what you plant, because the inoculant boosts the nitrogen-fixing power of the peas, allowing for bigger yields.

Bush peas don’t need support, but look better with it. so I use an expanding bamboo trellis that covers a 12-foot-long bed about two feet high. Prior to that, I used stakes in the ground at either end of the bed, with another horizontal overhead stake, with lightweight plastic trellis material strung from that.

Or, you can do just about anything you like with peas, and you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t plant them in a straight row of single peas. It looks funny. But then, it’s your garden, not mine.


About lifegrower

Peter V. Fossel has been gardening since he was nine, and has been an organic farmer for the last 20 years. His most recent book, “Organic Farming, Everything You Need to know” was published by Voyageur Press, Minneapolis, 2007. He’s written numerous gardening articles for Organic Gardening, Horticulture, Country Journal, Out Here, and American Profile among others. He was Gardens Manager for The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson in Tennessee before returning to Cape Cod to start his newest organic venture, Swan River Farm in Dennisport, MA.
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