Update on peas

I wrote a while ago that I was ‘doing’ peas this year, by which I meant, trying out several varieties of peas for ease of growing and yields.

All the varieties are up and running; most are flowering and I’ve harvested some, so it’s time for a few preliminary comments.

Firstly, I don’t grow snow peas, sugar-snap peas or any of the many edible-podded varieties. I don’t eat them because they just don’t agree with my system. The last few meals I had of them (years ago), were followed by ‘many happy returns’, so I stopped eating them. Shelled peas are OK; it’s obviously something in the pods of the others that doesn’t agree with me.

As with beans, germination of pea seeds is very quick. First sowings in February, into warm soil, germinated in just under a week. The same varieties, sown at the end of April (cooler soil) are now taking twice as long.

I put the tall varieties on  tepee—a stake in the centre of a wire circle, with strings leading from the centre top of the stake (nail hammered in) down to the outer edge of the wire:

It works in principle and does very well for beans that happily twine around the strings. The peas should grab the string with their tendrils and haul themselves up this way. In practice, they need a bit of encouragement to actually find the string, preferring to wander away from it. The varieties I grew (Telephone & Purple-podded), were a bit too tall for the tepee and got to the top before they flowered and then flopped everywhere. Wind is their real enemy at this time. So I need a taller tepee or a different kind of structure—a tall frame of some sort that holds them in place. Not sure if I want to go to all that trouble.

The dwarf varieties were better behaved, although I haven’t tried any yet on a tepee. Instead, they were planted in wicking tubs and wicking boxes. In a wicking tub, a circle of wire sitting around the inner edge of the tub keeps the plants confined and a few crossing sticks give the central ones something to hang on to:

The dwarf varieties flower first because they get to their mature height more quickly. Blue Bantam from Fothergills Seeds flowered in just 34 days. Massey Gem, another dwarf from Eden Seeds, took 41 days. I was picking both these varieties at 70 days. The tall Purple-podded climber from The Lost Seed flowered in 60 days and isn’t ready to pick yet after nearly 90 days.

So if you’re after a quick yield, the dwarf forms are the way to go.

The most interesting of the varieties is one I call Field Pea, because a crop of them came up in pea straw I bought for mulch and I collected their seeds. This one is a semi-dwarf (getting to a bit over a metre high) and has so many tendrils which all grab onto one another, making a patch of plants hang together like a stiff bush. All they need for support is a central stake with a coil of wire around it and they’ll grow into a sort of column. I planted these in a tub on the deck. The rear ones have attached themselves to the wires between the deck posts and the others are hanging onto them. They flowered in 71 days and I’m just about to pick the first of them, after 90 days:

I began to look at the flowering habits of all the varieties. The more flowers the higher the yield. They all seem to produce one flower stem from  each leaf axil (that’s the junction between the stem leaf and the main stem). Like this:

So presumably, a tall plant will have more leaves up the stem, more leaf axils, more flowers and more pods. A dwarf plant won’t have as many.

But here’s an interesting thing which I just noticed. The Field Peas have a single stem coming out of the leaf axil which branches into two flowers. How clever is that? More bang for your buck:

Note the mass of wiry tendrils on this variety.

I’m shelling the pods as soon as they’re picked, weighing and blanching them then putting them in the freezer. I’ll have to admit there’s not a lot. I’m bemoaning the fact that the pods (probably more than half the total weight) get thrown away (or at least into the compost). Not good if you want high yields. Are peas worth it? Not if you want peas with every meal and only if you have acres of them. I’ll have to give growing peas some thought.

In the meantime I’d love to know more about this Field Pea variety. Is it grown just to provide pea straw for gardeners? Or is it grown for the peas and the straw is only a profitable sideline? The central part of the flower is pink and the rear petals are white:

In the Purple-podded variety the central part of the flower is deep pink and the back petals are purplish-pink. Real elegance:

All the other varieties I’m growing have white flowers.

What is this pink-flowered variety?

5 Responses to “Update on peas”

  1. Meeka Says:

    Super gorgeous pea flowers, and your pea plants look great! Mine are just popping up now, so I fear a long wait til I get to eat any!!
    Love how you’ve set the peas up with cages and teepees etc. Has given me more ideas on how to start some lines for mine when they get a bit bigger. Also I feel relieved that I have mainly got dwarf types coming, so that I might get to eat some peas sooner. haha!! cheers. 🙂


  2. Frogdancer Says:

    I love peas. I’m growing some in a wicking bed for the nitrogen. I hate broadbeans so peas were the obvious choice.


  3. narf77 Says:

    Not too sure what that pink variety is but as usual, love your post. One day I am going to actually get the time to invest in getting our poor long suffering garden beds going. At least it will give the possums something to chew on other than the roses…sigh…


  4. Rusty Says:

    great post. hey any idea what the field peas were in the end? I’ve got heaps of these in my vege garden from pea straw and wanted to know whether it was worth growing them or not.



    • foodnstuff Says:

      Hi Nick, no I never did find out what that variety was, but I think it’s worth growing because it has a good yield and the large number of tendrils make it easy to attach itself to the minimum of trellis.


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