Peas are high in food value and rich in vitamins A, the B group and C. It is of very ancient origin being grown and used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Garden Pea is very sensitive to heat and thrives only in cool weather. In the South it is grown during the fall and winter and in the North in the spring. In the North late plantings for maturity in the fall are seldom satisfactory. In hot weather growth is retarded, insects and diseases are a problem, pollination is poor resulting in pods with few, if any, seeds.
The many listed varieties of peas are classified as dwarf or tall, smooth or wrinkle seeded, and edible podded. Recommended dwarf sorts are ‘Alaska’ (smooth-seeded), ‘Little Marvel’, ‘Laxtonian’ and ‘Progress’. Tall varieties are ‘Treezonia’ and ‘Alderman’. ‘Wanda’, 24-30 in. plant, is the most resistant variety to heat. Edible podded peas of excellent quality are ‘Mammoth Melting Sugar’, 50-60 in. plant, and ‘Dwarf Gray Sugar’, 26-32 in. plant.
Pea Soils and Fertilizers
Peas can be grown in a variety of soil types. For very early planting a sandy or silt loam is preferred, but for a later planting a well-drained clay loam is ideal because of its cooler temperature. The soil reaction for acidity should test from 6.0 to 6.5 pH.
If manure is used it must be well rotted or else worked into the soil in the previous fall. The Pea is a legume and, consequently, absorbs nitrogen from the air. This is of relatively little importance with the quick-maturing dwarf varieties. If manure has been used, broadcast15-20 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. of a 5-to-5 commercial fertilizer and thoroughly mix into the soil. If no manure was used, increase the fertilizer application by 10 lbs. In some cases, it may be advisable to side dress in bands 2 in. from row with nitrate of soda, 2-3 lbs. per 100 ft. of row, at the time of pod set. For peas the soil should be thoroughly prepared and fertilized to provide a fine friable seedbed.
Peas should be planted as early as the soil can be properly prepared and, therefore, are usually one of the first crops planted in the home garden. While the smooth-seeded sorts such as ‘Alaska’ will stand lower temperatures than the wrinkled sorts, both must be planted early to obtain a good succession for harvest, e.g. ‘Alaska’ matures in 55-60 days, ‘Little Marvel’ and ‘Laxtonian’ in 60-63, ‘Freezonia’ 63-65, ‘Wanda’ 70-72 and ‘Alderman’ 74-76. This procedure is preferred to several succession plantings of 1 variety.
Dwarf sorts are planted 24-30 in. apart between rows and 2-in. spacing will provide a good stand of plants in the row. Seed should not be planted deeper than 1 or 2 in. For tall varieties it is a common practice to space the rows 30-36 in. apart and the seeds are planted in double rows. Make 2 parallel drills 6 in. apart and 4 in. deep. Sow the seed and cover the seed with 2 in. of soil. Gradually fill the drill as the plants come up. The object of this double row is to provide space between the drills for the brush or wire trellis needed to support these tall varieties. It also makes more efficient use of space in the garden. The same planting procedure should be used for single row culture.
Supports should be placed at planting time and may consist of (1) brush, 4-5 ft. high after the stems have been pushed into the soil for a distance of 12-18 in. The brush should be well-branched and close enough together to provide a ready hold for the pea-vine tendrils. (2) Chicken wire, 4-5 ft. high, stretched as tight as possible between posts placed at 8-10 ft. intervals. The advantage of chicken wire is that after cleaning it can be rolled up and stored for the next year. Brush is not so easy to obtain and dispose of at the end of the season.
Peas require sufficient shallow cultivation to control weeds. Where brush or wire trellis is used hand weeding is necessary in the row. Commercial growers use the selective herbicide, Premerge, as a pre- and post-emergence chemical to control weeds. This is not recommended for use by the home gardeners.
The pods are hand-picked when the seeds are beginning to fill out the pods. Quality in peas is associated with tenderness and high sugar content. During maturity of the seed the sugar content decreases rapidly with an increase in starch. Fully matured pods will contain peas that are tough and flat in flavor. Peas that are harvested at peak quality and then exposed for 4-5 hours to high temperatures, 75° F. plus, will also lose their sweetness and tender texture.
Pea aphid, a rather large green plant louse, sucks the juice first from the growing tip but eventually from the entire plant. It can be controlled by dusting with malathion, Diazinonor dimethoate. Do not feed treated foliage to cattle. Pea weevil is brownish with white, black and gray markings. Adults feed on blossoms and larvae burrow into green seed which are most troublesome in western states. Control by parathion spray using 8% emulsion concentrate or 2% emulsion concentrate 1 pt. per 100 gal. Use parathion with caution. Do not apply later than 10 days before harvest.
Powdery mildew, a fungus, most serious during hot, humid weather, forms a dense white or grayish coating on the leaves. Dusting with sulfur-lime gives fair control. Root rots caused by several different fungi which live over in the soil are frequently serious in reducing the stand of plants. The basic control lies in crop rotation, planting in well-drained and aerated soils and possibly treating the seed prior to planting with Spergon or Arasan. Wilt is another fungus disease common to peas and is soil borne. Infected plants show a downward curling of the leaves, a wilted appearance resulting in stunted growth. Control is same as for root rot.