Category Archives: Peas

Soil Preparation for Growing Peas

Homegrown peas will only be as good as the soil that they are grown in.  In order to have the best peas, take time before planting to improve your soil.  You must first determine the type of soil that you are working with.  There are many types of soil including, sand, clay, loam, or even a combination of these types.  To determine your soil type, a soil sample can be sent to your local Cooperative Extension service.  This service will perform a number of tests on your soil and tell you what kind of soil and what the organic makeup of your soil is.  This service will also provide you with suggestions to improve your soil.

A Little Work and Dirty Hands

soil

Working the soil is an important step for growing any vegetable.  Since vegetable seeds need oxygen to properly germinate, loose soil is important.  This also enables pea seed roots to stretch out in order to obtain the food and nutrients they need.  This will make plants stronger and healthier.  Till or spade your garden early in the spring to a depth of 10 inches.  Wait until the soil is dry enough to work or you will end up with clumps of dirt that will dry and harden, making it impossible for roots to grow.  To test the soil, squeeze a handful into a small ball, if you can break the ball easily by poking it with your finger, it is dry enough to be worked.  When you have worked the soil it should be free of clumps and very loose.  Working the soil also cuts down on weeds.  Every time the soil is turned, tiny weed producing seeds are unearthed and brought to the surface where they die leaving the others too deep to germinate.  This will cut down on the time and effort spent weeding a garden.

Healthy Soil Yields Healthy Vegetables

It is important that your soil is improved before planting bean or pea seeds.  Once seeds have been planted, it is too late to improve and add needed nutrients.  One of the best ways to improve soil is to incorporate organic material.  This can be old leaves, kitchen scraps, compost, or any number of organic materials that will break down and improve the quality of the soil.  In sandy soils, this organic material will hold the soil together.  In clay soils, the material will wedge between the soil particles to loosen it, allowing water and air to reach the roots of the plants. Organic material can be added any time but adding it during the fall season gives it plenty of time to break down before the spring planting season.soil-test

What Is Your Soil PH Level?

Soil pH is another factor that should be considered.  The pH is simply how acid or alkaline your soil is.  A testing kit can be bought at your local gardening center to test this.  Peas grow best in a pH of 5.8 to 7.0.  The pH of 7.0 is a neutral pH with 5.8 being a little more on the acidic side.  To bring your soil to the correct pH, add lime (to bring the pH up and lessen the acidity) or sulfur (to bring the pH down or make it more acidic).  Ashes from wood stoves or fireplaces can be used in place of lime.  Use 4 to 5 pounds of lime or ashes (12 quart bucket) for every 100 square feet of soil to be treated.

Fertilizer

cow-277727_640Fertilizers are also recommended when working the soil.  There are two different types of fertilizers, organic and chemical.  Organic fertilizers will not burn plants as will their chemical counterparts.  Since the pea is a legume, it absorbs its supply of nitrogen from the air after germination.  Bone meal can be used to supply nitrogen until then.  It has slow action and does not harm any crop.  One suggested organic fertilizer for peas consists of one part dried blood (obtained from a slaughter house), one part bone meal, and one part greensand, potash, or granite dust.    Other organic fertilizers include blood meal, peat moss, and manure. Manure is a natural fertilizer for plants but also has a high salt content.  This is not a problem in areas of high rainfall where the salts are washed away.  It becomes a problem in areas in which the rainfall is not sufficient to wash away the salts, thus causing a “burned leaf” appearance in the pea plants.  Commercially prepared chemical fertilizers are available and can be bought for the needs of a particular type of soil.  When purchasing these, look for the three numbers associated with the type.  This tells you how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is contained in the product.  The first number specifies the percentage of nitrogen.  The second and third specifies the percentages of phosphorus and potassium.  That means that 10-10-10 on a package of fertilizer corresponds to 10 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus, 10 percent potassium, and 70 percent inert ingredients.   Whether using chemical or organic fertilizer it is important to use the correct type and amounts needed for your particular soil.  Using more than required will not make your soil better.  It can result in burned pea plants and low yield.

Maximize Your Cropsprout-316127_1280

Once pea plants have been harvested it is a good idea to turn the plants back into the soil.  Peas are especially good for this because of the nitrogen content in their roots.  Tilling them back under the soil preserves this nitrogen and improves the soil for future crops.  This is called “green manure”.  Many people plant an early pea crop and immediately till them back into the soil after harvest so that they can plant a second crop of vegetables.  This method takes advantage of the nutrients that the pea crop has left behind in the soil. Taking the time before planting season to prepare your soil correctly will assure that your peas are healthy and strong.  You will be sure that it was well worth the extra effort when you are enjoying the “fruits of your labor”.

 Pea Garden
Don’t forget to check out my reviews of different pea shelleing machines to help save your time…and thumbs.. one you have harvested your pea garden.

Growing Your Pea Garden Upside Down

If you have limited garden space or just want to try something new, growing your pea garden upside down can be a fun thing to try. Upside down container gardens not only enhance the beauty of your home, they serve many practical purposes as well. By letting roots grow in a hanging bucket filled with dirt, your bean plants can remain completely undisturbed by pests and weeds. Many gardeners have found that plants grown upside down actually end up producing more fruit than the same varieties grown on the ground.

peaplant

Peas are cool-weather annuals meaning that they can be planted and grown throughout mild cold weather. When your plants are about 3″ tall, transplant into your upside down planter. Water as needed. Peas don’t like heat, so let your upside planter work double duty. Plant herbs or annual flowers that crave full sun in the soil on top of your planter. This will provide your peas with shade and reduce moisture loss. Also, plant your pea garden in lighter color planters. Dark planters will absorb the heat and could cause your pea plants to grow and produce poorly.Beans

Due to the increasing popularity of planting upside down, you can find affordable upside down planters for sale at most major supermarkets. If you’d rather get creative and make your own, they are very easy to construct. Depending on the size you prefer, you can use everything from five-gallon plastic buckets to soda bottles. In this article from the New York Times, you can read more about growing peas upside down as well as the benefits of upside down gardening.

How To Make a Five-Gallon Bucket Pea Planter

1. Cut a small hole in the bottom of the bucket.
2. Place a baby pea plant through the hole and secure it in place with strips of newspaper.
3. Fill the bucket with a healthy soil and compost blend.
4. Tie ropes to the top of your bucket planter and hang it from your porch.

When your peas are ready for harvest, I recommend the Mr. Pea Sheller.

Mr. Pea Sheller

Mr. Pea Sheller

Compact and easily fit to most counter tops, this hand crank bean sheller will save your time and thumbs. You can check out my review as well.

~ Kerry Clabaugh

Freezing Your Peas

 

There is nothing quite as good as the sweet flavor of fresh peas straight from the garden. You can enjoy that same fresh taste year round by freezing them after they have been harvested. To retain the fresh flavor and tenderness, peas should be processed as soon as possible after they have been picked. Generally, a fresh bean should pop from the pod by twisting. Peas that are slimy or limp are too old to freeze. They will be rubbery and tasteless. If it is not possible to process the peas immediately after picking them, shelled peas can be put into the refrigerator or kept on ice for a few days. Peas in the pod do not deteriorate as quickly and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Choosing the right peas also plays an important part in successful preparation. Pick out and discard any peas that are hard, slimy, or discolored. I find that the smaller the pea, the more tender and flavorful they are after freezing. Peas that are picked after maturity grow larger and have a tendency to become hard and bitter. Being choosy will yield much better results and tastier food.peaplant

Once peas have been shelled, wash them to remove any dirt or debris on them. This can easily be accomplished by using a colander. Place the peas into the colander and run cold water over them, gently stirring with your hands until they are clean.

 

The Blanching Process

 

Because peas are very high in natural sugar, they must be blanched before freezing. Blanching will prevent enzymes from turning the sugar into starch and spoiling the taste. Blanching is the process of heating them up quickly, which kills bacteria and stops enzyme production. This process also allows the peas to retain their color and nutrients. Peas that have been blanched can be frozen for 9 to 12 months before eating. Although it is not recommended, it is possible to freeze peas without blanching but they must be used within 4 weeks after freezing.

 

1. Fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water and bring to a rapid boil.
2.Place 1 pound of washed peas in a wire basket with handle and immerse basket in the boiling water and wait for the water to return to a boil.
3. Boil peas for 2 minutes.
4. Remove wire basket from the boiling water and immerse basket into a large container of water and ice for about 5 minutes. This will stop the cooking process.
5. Drain peas to remove as much moisture as possible.
6. Pack peas tightly into thick freezer bags or plastic freezing container. Remove as much air as possible.
7. Label each bag with the “type of pea” and “date of preparation”.
8. Freeze quickly to retain flavor and nutrients.
9. Enjoy.

Pea HeartNutritional Value

Besides being delicious, peas are an excellent source of nutrition. Nutrients found in a serving of peas include iron, fiber, calcium, protein, vitamins A and C, and digestive aids such as riboflavin.

If processed correctly, your peas will be hard to tell from fresh picked ones and their tender flavor can be enjoyed all winter.

 

If you need a helping hand while shelling your peas, I highly recommend the Taylor Bean Sheller machine. The Taylor Little Sheller can shell 3-4 bushels an hour. The Taylor Mini Sheller machine is about ⅔ the size of the Little Sheller, but is perfect for beginners or home gardens. You can also check out my review of the Taylor Little Sheller.

~Kerry Clabaugh