Tag Archives: gardening

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


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.


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.


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

Why You Should Grow Peas


Garden peas are a delightfully delicious member of the legume family and one of the oldest vegetables in the world.  Peas are tasty whether eaten raw, cooked, in stir- fry, or in salads.  There are several varieties of peas including the shell pea, the snap pea, and the snow pea.  Each of these has it’s own special characteristics, but all share the sweet taste known to the pea. Peas have gained popularity as a health food in recent years.  Raw peas are eaten as snacks in lunches or put into fresh salads.  Green garden peas are a source of protein and iron.  They also have insoluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack.  Although snap peas and snow peas contain less protein than green garden peas, they are high in iron and contain vitamin C which boost the immune system.

English, Snap, or Snow… Which will you plant?

pea-pod-382293_1280The shell pea, also known as the English pea or garden pea, refers to a group of peas that grow in a pod.  These pods must be opened to release the peas for cooking and eating. Opening and removing these peas from the pod is referred to as “shelling”, hence the name shell peas.   Many people enjoy these peas raw straight out of the shell. The pods are inedible.  Shell peas are a cool weather plant and can be planted before the last frost.  Generally, the soil should be at least 45° F and not wet or muddy.  Shell peas can be bushing or vining with wrinkled or smooth seeds depending on the variety.  The wrinkled seed variety tend to be sweeter and are preferred for home use while the smooth seed kind contain more starch. The peas should be picked while tender and rounded in the pod, yet still immature.  The pods in the lower portion of the plant mature the earliest.  As the peas mature they become hard and starchy.   Processing these peas immediately after picking  produces the best flavor since their quality and sweetness begins to deteriorate as soon as they have been picked.   There are many pea shellers on the market today ranging from manual hand crank shellers to electric sheller models.  Consider using one of these if you have a large yield of peas.  This will lessen the time from the vine to the freezer and preserve the sweetness of the pea.

Another form of pea is the snap pea.  This pea is a favorite because it takes so little to prepare them.  The snap pea has a low fiber pod that can be snapped and eaten along with the immature peas inside.  They are delicious eaten raw or cooked, although some varieties have strings that must be removed before cooking.  These should be picked as the peas begin to plump in the pod, but before they mature completely.  As the snap pea matures, the pod becomes higher in fiber making it tough and inedible.   Like the shell pea, the snap pea is a cool weather vegetable.  It can be planted earlier in the season than most other garden vegetables.  In fact, early plantings usually produce a higher yield than later plantings.  The snap pea should be harvested every 1-3 days.  This will assure that the plant keeps producing peas.  If the peas are not harvested regularly, the plant will stop producing.

A form of pea that has recently reached popularity in the United States is the snow pea.  The snow pea is small and grows in a flat pod.  It is commonly used in Asian cooking and looks much like the shell of a butter bean.  Snow peas are sweet and tender and both the shell and the peas are edible.  They are delicious in a stir-fry dish or a salad.  Like other peas, they are also planted in the cool weather with soil of about 45°.  After germination, they will produce in about 60 days.  Snow peas must be picked at least every other day.  If they are allowed to get plump, the pod must be discarded.  Fiber begins to build up in the pod as it matures, making it tough and inedible.  Snow peas are harvested when they have grown full length but are still flat.  This is usually 5-7 days after flowering.  Remove fiber, stems, and blossom ends during preparation.  Unlike other peas, snow pea pods do not deteriorate quickly.  They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  Pea pods loose their crispness during cooking and since they are high in sugar content, they brown quickly.  When using them in a stir-fry recipe, be sure that the heat is not too intense.pea-plant1200

Fresh is Best

To help spend up my pea picking…and save my back… I use a 5 gallon picking bag. All peas are better when prepared immediately after harvesting.  To get the full flavor of any pea, they should be cooked fresh from the garden. Unfortunately, this is not always possible with larger gardens.  Peas freeze nicely, losing very little of their original sweetness if done promptly and correctly.  They can be stored for a couple of days in the refrigerator until there is time to freeze them. Shelling peas by hand can seriously wear your thumbs out. I really like my Taylor Pea Shellers. The investment has not been one that was regretted. If you just have a small garden, then a hand crank pea sheller might be better for you.


The blanching method is the best way to freeze peas, although some people freeze them fresh without any preparation.  Blanching is the process of heating the peas up in order to kill bacteria and stop enzyme production.  Since peas are high in sugar content, enzyme production will cause the sugars to turn to starch.  To blanch peas, they should be placed in boiling water for about 2 minutes, removed, and plunged into cold ice water for about 5 minutes.  This stops the cooking process.  Drain the peas, pack them into labeled freezer bags, and freeze them quickly.  Blanched peas will keep in the freezer for 9-12 months.  It is recommended that un-blanched, fresh frozen peas should be eaten within four weeks of freezing.  Frozen peas do not have to be cooked after thawing.  They can be added to soups, stews, and salads or simply heated briefly before serving.

hand-271756_1280Peas For Your Health

Peas are a superior vegetable.  They are easily grown, have large yields, are relatively easy to preserve, are an ingredient in an assortment of foods, provide nutrition, and have an excellent sweet taste that can be enjoyed all year.  What vegetable could be more perfect than that?

So tell me, will you grow peas in your garden?

~Kerry Clabaugh