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Pea How to Grow Peas to Produce Delicious Crops

The garden Pea, which provides pods of edible seeds for use chiefly in the early summer months, is one of the most delicious of vegetables. The numerous varieties now in cultivation are descended from an annual plant whose botanical name is Pisum sativum; it belongs to the family Leguminosae. This Pea is said to be a native of parts of Europe and western Asia.

Because the Pea is very intolerant of hot weather and can be grown only when the days, and more particularly the nights, are comparatively cool, the chief sowing time in most parts of North America is spring. It is generally true that the earlier the seeds can be sown, once danger of severe frost has passed, the better. Light frosts do not harm Pea seeds in the ground or even young plants showing above ground. In parts of the South, Peas sown in fall give good results because the months that follow sowing are cool enough to be favorable to the growth of Peas, yet not so cold as to prevent their growth or the maturing of crops.

Peas can be grown well only in deep and fairly rich soil that does not dry out in hot weather; they are not a success on poor or sandy, light land.

The ideal way to prepare the ground for the cultivation of Peas, especially if crops of the best quality are desired, is as follows:

Dig a trench 2 ft. deep in the garden in the autumn. Add manure or rich compost to the lower soil and leave the rest of the excavated soil at the sides of the trench so that it will be exposed to the weather during the winter months. In very early spring the soil will be crumbly, and easily broken into fine particles with the garden fork. The soil should then be filled into the trench and trodden moderately firm while it is fairly dry. Unless the soil contains plenty of lime, a scattering of this substance should be put on the surface and forked in lightly.

What we have just described is an ideal way of preparing the soil, because Peas are a deep-rooting crop and thrive best in deeply prepared soil. Fortunately, on most soils, good crops can be obtained with less effort than taking out a 2ft.deep trench in the way described. The ground should, however, be plowed or spaded to a depth of 9-10 in. and be well enriched with manure or compost and an application of fertilizer.

Any good complete vegetable garden fertilizer, such as a 5-10-5, may be substituted for the fertilizer mixture mentioned above.

In the vegetable-garden rotation of crops, Peas should occupy a section of the garden that has been deeply dug and manured in preparation for sowing and planting; this section, the following year, without any further manuring, may be devoted to root crops such as Beets, Carrots, Parsnips and Turnips—all vegetables that thrive best on ground that has not been recently manured but has been enriched by manure incorporated in preparation for a previous crop.

In cultivating Peas on light (sandy) land, a location shaded slightly from the midday sun should be selected. Rotted manure or compost should be added at 10-12 in. beneath the surface and decayed organic material of any type mixed in liberal amounts with the soil above. As soon as the Peas are 6 in. or so high, the soil alongside the rows should be mulched with decayed manure, compost or other suitable material.

Sowing the Seeds. As the seeds of Peas germinate freely, it is wasteful to scatter the seeds thickly. A good plan is to make a 6-in.-wide, shallow, 3-4-in.-deep drill or furrow on the prepared site, and to scatter the seeds over the bottom, the seeds being set about 2 in. from each other. They should be covered with an inch or so furrows 6-8 in. apart and 3-4 in. deep, and sow in • these. The space between the two drills gives a place into which to insert the peasticks or other supports for the double row of seedlings.

Distance Between the Rows. The rows, whether single and 6 in. or so broad, or consisting each of two furrows, should be set at a distance from each other equal to the height of the plants when they are full grown. Thus, if the Peas will eventually reach a height of 4 ft., the rows should be 4 ft. apart, and so on. To make the most of the ground between the rows, it is usual to sow Spinach or Lettuce there. Before sowing the seeds of Peas, many gardeners stir them in a dish containing a mixture of red lead and kerosene to prevent damage by mice.

Staking Peas. A detail of importance is to provide the seedlings, when they are only 2 or 3 in. high, with small twiggy sticks or other suitable supports. If this is neglected, the seedlings will fall over for lack of support, and if that happens they never do really well afterwards. Before the Peas reach the tops of the twiggy sticks, tall brushwood, of a height suited to the particular variety, should be put in; or a fence of chicken wire may be substituted for this tall brushwood.

Amateurs almost always insert the peasticks so that they meet at the top, but a better way is to set them so that they slope slightly outwards at the top.

During early growth the soil between the rows should be hoed frequently to keep down weeds. If dry weather sets in, the Peas must be watered thoroughly at regular intervals. If a mulch of compost or other moisture-retaining material that will keep the roots cool is placed alongside the rows, it will prove of great benefit.

Peas should be picked while they are young and tender, but not before the seeds in the pots are sufficiently large to make picking them worth while. If they are picked when too young, the total weight of crop gathered is greatly reduced.

Varieties. Garden Peas are of two main types, the smooth-seeded and the wrinkled-seeded. The former are hardier, may be sown a week or so before the wrinkled-seeded varieties, and are especially useful in cold sections. Their seeds are less liable to rot in the soil under unfavorable conditions than are those of wrinkled-seeded kinds. The quality of the Peas, however, is markedly inferior to that of wrinkled-seeded Peas.

Wrinkled-seeded Peas are the choicest, and a wide selection of varieties of these are offered in seed dealers’ catalogues, from which the gardener may make a selection to suit his needs. The varieties vary in height from about 2 ft. to 6 ft. or higher. They also vary in the length of time they take from sowing to maturity. Some gardeners choose one or two varieties and make two or three sowings spaced ten days to two weeks apart to ensure harvesting a crop over as long a period as possible. However, it is usually a better plan to select varieties that need different lengths of time to mature, and sow all of them as early as practicable. This gives the plants an opportunity to send their roots deeply into the earth before hot weather comes, and also ensures successional harvesting.

Edible-podded Peas or Sugar Peas are something of a novelty, and are well worth growing. Their culture is exactly the same as for other kinds. With these varieties both the pods and the seeds they contain are cooked and eaten.

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