Kitchen Gardens: Peas
Nothing tastes like spring quite as much a sweet pea - whether freshly podded, or enjoyed pod and all.
The only trick is to get the peas to the kitchen before the children eat them all off the vines!
The best way to get the kids to eat their veg - grow peas. Photo - Luisa Brimble
Peas can be grown in all climates, as long as you can provide full sun for at least six hours a day. In warm areas sow seeds between March and July; in temperate regions from February to August, and in cold areas avoid frost damage by sowing between September and October.
Prepare the pea patch before sowing by forking in well-rotted compost, a handful of garden lime (if your pH is acidic), and a sprinkling of potash. Peas produce their own nitrogen so don’t over-feed plants with nitrogen-rich fertilisers.
Provide something to grow on - a wigwam, trellis or teepee made from long sticks, bamboo poles or tomato stakes supporting chicken wire.
Sow into moist soil, 5-7cm deep and 10cm apart, with rows 45-90cm apart. Water only once seedlings are 7-10cm tall, as root rot is an early risk. Sow a new row every 2-3 weeks for a long harvest.
Peas are troubled by few diseases or insect pests. Treat mildew with sprays of organic fungicide and control the red spider mite that can be a problem during hot, dry weather with regular applications of Natrasoap or soapy water.
Watering plants with seaweed solution during sunny weather improves disease resistance.
Dust seeds with a fungicide before sowing to reduce diseases at germination time.
Protect young seedlings from birds.
Balcony gardeners can grow peas in a 40cm-wide pot with climbing supports.
Earlicrop is a dwarf variety with a good harvest on strong bushes 1m tall.
Greenfeast is our favourite shelling pea on a 1.5m vine.
Telephone produces large pods over a long period on a 2m vine that likes to grow up netting.
Sugar Snap is a vigorous 2m tall, heavy-cropping vine, producing over many months.
Sugar Ann is a wonderfully sweet sugarsnap, perfect for small backyards and containers.