WINTERTIME and the PEAS ARE GROWING
and Photos by Anne K Moore
--- Posted December 4, 2009 ---
Thanksgiving has just gone by and the dinner is
safely stuffed in the frig and in the family. Now it is time for some serious outdoor work here in South
I set out to lug compost into the vegetable garden, string lines so my rows
will be straight, and fight a bounding, rearing, kicking little tiller, I’m not
really thinking about the dirt and the sore muscles; well, not all of the
time. I'm thinking about the enjoyable
taste of the vegetables I'll harvest after all of this work. And, nothing gets me moving in the
garden like the promise of the sweet taste of homegrown peas.
Thanksgiving weekend is the best time to plant
peas in the vegetable garden here in zones 7-8. They sprout and grow roots during the cool days, then send
up top growth and grow a little every time the weather tops the 50's. By March, I will be harvesting sugar
snap peas, probably one of the all-time favorite vegetables ever
developed. It won an All America
Selection award in 1979 and is still hugely popular with vegetable gardeners.
Sugar Snaps and their progeny are versatile. You can eat them pod and all or you can
let the peas inside mature and shell them. This would be a mistake, though, since the pods are still
luscious even at this advanced age.
The original Sugar Snap pea does need to have the strings removed from
the top and bottom of the pod. I
do this as I harvest the pods and drop the strings and tips right there in the
garden row. It makes for instant
It is much more pleasurable to do kitchen chores
in the garden. Plus, it makes it
easy to go ahead and stuff my mouth with the particularly succulent looking
pods. It never hurts to test a
crop before handing it over to family and friends.
Sugar Snap Peas, the original, is a very tall
vine. It needs a five to six foot
trellis. This is easy enough to fashion
since the vines, even full of peas, weigh very little. Garden twine stretched and strung into
a grid between bamboo stakes works as well as anything heavier.
There are even newer varieties, like Sugar Ann Snap
Pea, which won an AAS award in 1984, that are dwarfed and do not require
staking. Sugar Sprint is a dwarf
that also does not need to have strings removed. I opt for the little extra work of putting up a trellis and
pulling strings from the pods, though, because I think the original Sugar Snap is
still the best tasting. A close
second in my garden is the Super Sugar Snap.
We often have a warm spell here in South Carolina
around the middle of December. I
have successfully planted my peas as late as Christmas and still had a bumper
crop come spring. When I have
waited until February, the Official
planting time, the seeds have mostly rotted in the cold soil. I have found it is better to get them
up and growing before our winter rains arrive in earnest.
To grow peas successfully in your home garden,
choose a well-drained site in full sun.
If you are in the Snow Belt, wait for the soil to warm up and dry out in
the spring. Covering the bed with
plastic will hurry up this process.
Peas take 50-60 days to mature so make sure you do not plant them so
late that they will be ready to flower just as the heat waves hit the
garden. They need cool to cold
nights and warm, not hot, days to supply you with mounds of fresh peas. March is often a good time, around St.
Patrick's Day, for planting in much of the cold winter states.
Be sure to plant plenty. If you are ever generous enough to serve them to friends,
they will forever ask you for some "extras" from your garden. I never seem to plant enough, not just
because of the ease of giving, but also because so many never make it
indoors. They are an irresistible straight from the vine snack as I
harvest or go about my other garden chores.
Plant the seeds a quarter to a half inch
deep. Do I use treated seed? Do I use an inoculant? No to both. My soil is still warm and since I don't use chemicals, it is
teaming with microbes. You might
need one or the other enhancements.
If your garden is under a foot or more of snow,
dream through some seed catalogs until it thaws enough to get your early spring
veggies in the ground. These cool
weather growers should go in before the sun heats up the garden and the
Some of my favorite (for seeds) catalogs:
Johnny's Selected Seeds: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/c-1-vegetable-seeds.aspx
Renee's Garden: http://www.reneesgarden.com/
Not only do these vendors supply seed, you can
learn about gardening in general and how to grow your seed choices in
particular just by reading their catalog pages.