“Peas are so easy to grow, they’re almost bulletproof,” enthuses Chris Smith from Sunland Seeds, one of Australia’s largest supplier of pea seeds to Australian farmers.
Since the advent of frozen, pre-shelled peas, very few of us ever seem to have the opportunity to taste fresh green peas. But Chris thinks the sweet flavour of a just-picked pea is something everyone should experience – and you’ll only get to do so if you grow your own. This is why Chris Smith believes that more Australian home gardeners should try growing peas.
“All you need is an open, sunny spot in the garden, with well-dug soil that’s previously been used to grow another, unrelated crop such as sweet corn or tomatoes,” says Chris. “And just one packet of seed will produce enough peas for a family, especially if the sowing is staggered over the next couple of months.”
Here are some of Chris’s other tips for home garden pea growers:
Unless you know your soil already has a high pH, add some Garden Lime or Dolomite before sowing.
Mix complete fertiliser – Blood & Bone, Dynamic Lifter or Thrive Granular – into the soil before sowing, but don’t let the plant food come into direct contact with the seeds.
Sow seeds into damp soil (approx. 25mm deep) and don’t water again for a couple of days.
Be careful not to overwater. Both seeds and plants will rot away if they’re too wet.
Climbing peas like Telephone, Snow Peas and Climbing Sugarsnap will need a supporting trellis to climb on. Wire panels are best, as they allow air movement through the plants.
Even the taller ‘dwarf’ peas, such as Greenfeast, will perform better if given some support. Otherwise they tend to flop on the ground where they’re much more likely to pick up disease.
If you don’t have room for a trellis, low growing Earlicrop Massey is the best choice.
Peas grow well during the cooler months. The flowers can be damaged by frost so, in very cold areas, you’ll have to wait until spring for crops. But in those cold parts it’s possible to sow well into spring.
Mildew is the most common problem. This fungal disease, which first appears as powdery patches on the leaves and plants, may eventually cause the plant to collapse. Try to keep leaves as dry as possible (water at the base and in the morning) and spray with a milk solution (1 part full cream milk to 9 parts water).
Harvest pods regularly to keep more crops coming and, at the end of the season, dig the plants into the soil so that they can add valuable nitrogen.
“Even first-time gardeners will find peas easy to grow,” concludes Chris. “And kids will be amazed to discover that peas don’t always have to come out of plastic bags in the freezer.”