Are you just itching to get out into the garden, feel the new spring soil and begin with growing plants? Consider peas.
Pisum sativum, the common pea, is a cool season crop that does best in temperatures below 70 degrees. There are two main varieties: sweet pea with an inedible pod, and snow peas that have edible flat pods and small peas inside. These is also the less commonly grown snap pea, Pisum macrocarpon, that has an edible pod and full size peals inside. All of these varieties can be sown in March once the soil is dry enough to work and the soil temperature reaches 40-45 degrees. Plant the seeds about 1” deep and 2” apart – some cultivars need staking so be sure to check the label directions. Peas, like all legumes, have the ability to “fix” nitrogen. This is a process of taking nitrogen form the air and changing it so that it is available in the soil as a fertilizer. Phosphorous and potassium levels in garden soils are usually sufficient for peas as they are not heavy feeders – and they provide their own nitrogen. A regular soil test is always recommended to ensure optimal nutrient levels. Once the pods begin to mature be sure to keep them well picked. This will cause them to continue to produce pods. And when you pick, use two hands – one to hold the plant and the other to pick the pods. I learned this the hard way in my dad’s garden and ended up with an embarrassed look on my face and the entire pea plant drooping from my hand. For more information about peas check the Burpee web site below.