Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
February, 2001
Regional Report

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To inoculate pea seeds, I soak them in water overnight, drain, and coat with powdered inoculant in a glass jar.

Time to Plant Peas

The sugary green pearls that most people call peas deserve the nickname of garden candy. That goes for all peas - shelling peas, snow peas, and edible-podded snap peas. In my house only a fraction of the crop ever makes it to the kitchen. Instead, our peas are consumed as on-site snacks when the long-awaited day finally arrives to start picking them.

Selecting Peas for the South

Early planting is crucial for peas in our Middle South region. They sprout well in cold soil but stop flowering and setting pods once the weather gets hot. If you love fresh peas like I do, include two or three varieties that mature at different times in your pea patch. For example, you might sow early 'Sugar Ann' (56-day snap pea), 'Maestro' (61-day shell pea), and 'Oregon Sugar Pod' (68-day snow pea) all at the same time. Don't worry about planting too much, because you can never have too many peas.

Planting Peas

To make the best use of space, grow peas in double rows 8-10 inches apart. Plant seeds 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart, and then thin plants, if needed, to grow 4 inches apart. To help the plants fix nitrogen, I always inoculate my pea seeds with Ni-Tro-Gen or another garden inoculant just before I put them in the ground. Inoculants add rhizobia bacteria to the peas. These bacteria live on the pea roots, fixing nitrogen for the peas to use while they grow. Peas also benefit from a little starter fertilizer to tide them over until they start feeding themselves with the help of the nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Trellising Peas

Peas germinate fast and quickly get in the mood to climb, so install a trellis at the same time you plant. Short branches stuck into the ground to form a pea fence work well for short varieties such as 'Sugar Ann', but you'll need a taller trellis for varieties that top 4 feet in height. A string trellis or plastic mesh netting attached to posts easily supports a double row of peas.

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