JoAnne Skelly: Pea planting time – hurrah!

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After the year we just had where everything was on hold for so long, I’m feeling encouraged that it’s pea planting time again. It makes life almost feel normal. St. Patrick’s Day is the traditional designated time for getting peas in the ground, as long as the soil has thawed and is workable.

I love fresh English or garden peas, right out of the pod. When young, even the pods are edible (unless you plant sugar snap peas or snow peas, which are edible as long as the pods are tender). The tender pea vine shoot tips are also edible and can be steamed or sauteed. Peas are easy to grow and there are a number of delicious varieties available.

Peas thrive in a well-drained, compost-amended soil with a pH between 6 and 7.5. Northern Nevada has a relatively short growing season because peas don’t like our hot summers. Optimal growing temperatures are between 55 and 65 degrees. Pea plants will start growing when temperatures rise above 40 degrees and will stop producing when temperatures reach 85 degrees or higher. Actual soil temperature controls how quickly seeds germinate, with warmer soils allowing quicker germination. For staggered harvests, plant a second group of seeds one week and again two weeks later. Young plants can survive light frosts, but plants starting to flower can be damaged by frost, so watch weather and cover plants as needed. They do like full sun. They usually take about 60 days from planting to harvest.

Tall, vining varieties get planted at the base of a trellis in a single row and grow along strings or netting between stakes. Bush type varieties can be planted either next to a trellis in a single row, or in a 12-inch to 18-inch-wide row where plants grow together for support. Soak the seeds overnight prior to planting.

Dig a shallow trench and place seeds six to seven inches apart, one inch deep for a single row or two inches apart in all directions for wide rows. Cover the seeds with soil and tamp it down for good seed to soil contact. Water in gently, but well. As plants grow, water the soil rather than the leaves and keep soil moderately moist, but not soggy.

Remember, sandy soils need water more often than clay soils. Peas need little fertilizer. Mulching the soil will conserve moisture and reduce weeds. Keep weeds out of your pea bed, but be careful not to hoe the shallow roots of the peas.

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