The Q&A Archives: Pea Vines Dying

Question: I have a large vegetable garden, and have always had great peas. Last year, my peas almost all died, and so this year I bought disease resistant varieties, and they have done the same thing. They germinate fine, and start to grow, but are stunted. They flower, and produce a few peas. There seems to be no good roots, the plants pull up very easily. This is usually one of my main crops for the freezer, but we hardly get enough for the table. This applies to early and mid season varieties.

Answer: What a shame! Sometimes if you grow crops in the same area year after year, diseases build up in the soil. If you don't already practice crop rotation, I suggest that you begin. Try sowing greens or root crops in the area next season.

Aphids and other sucking insects spread viruses that cause stunting and poor fruit set. If you see the tiny "plant lice" on leaves, squish them, or spray plants with insecticidal soap. Some viruses are carried by the seeds themselves, so be sure to purchase only certified disease-free seed. Nematodes can also cause poor root growth, which leads to stunted plants. Fusarium wilt leads to yellow, shriveled plants that yeild poorly, if they live to blossom at all.

To avoid problems with your pea crop next year, purchase legume innoculant (available at garden centers/mail order companies), which provides the root-dwelling bacteria that legumes need to thrive. Plant the crop in well-drained soil in a sunny location, and protect the young plants from pests with a fabric row cover until they are growing strong. Provide support for the vines as soon as possible in the growing season. Hope you have a freezer full next year!

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