If you haven’t gotten your early crop of peas in the ground then you best get outside today and starting working. It is imperative to get them sown as soon as possible in order to have a successful crop and free up space for something else later in the season.

The average last killing frost in the mountain region of Virginia is around the middle of May. Obviously the further you travel East the earlier that average is. For example in the Tidewater area of Virginia the average last killing frost is about this time of April. Unfortunately that means that we also have an earlier average first killing frost than anywhere else in Virginia. This leaves the mountain region of Virginia with about an average 165 day frost free growing season.

However, in no way does this mean you can’t have the same success or more success than your relatives in Central and Eastern Virginia. We just have to take advantage of crops that can survive in cooler weather and reach maturity quicker. Timing is everything and for many crops that you will want to grow there is a small window of opportunity to get them in the ground in hopes of a successful yield.

Peas are one of many crops that can really fit into your crop rotation. They are a perfect early Spring crop that can survive a frost and reach maturity in time to plant a different heat loving crop.

Most people construct trellises or put in stakes to allow their peas to climb. However, I prefer to just let my pea plants run wild and bushy. It saves me extra effort and money. I also feel that the peas are better shaded from the sun this way if you aren’t growing them in the shade of a taller crop, such as corn. Another interesting alternative and space saving technique is to grow peas around the border of your garden if you have some sort of fence intact. This method allows you to grow peas where otherwise you would not have anything growing.

Peas do not grow well in the hot weather or in direct sunlight so it is very important to not only plant them as early as possible, but to have some sort of shade.

Peas are also a legume, which means that they fixate nitrogen. In English this basically means that peas provide themselves with nitrogen and do not require a fertilizer source of nitrogen. Providing extra nitrogen would just make plants have a lot more growth and less actual peas. Not only do they provide themselves with nitrogen, but they leave nitrogen in the soil for following crops.

Peas do like a slightly acidic well drained sandy loam. A sandy loam allows for the soil to heat up quicker, which enables better germination. Like any crop the soil should contain plenty of organic matter, which will also help retain enough moisture in a sandy loam.

Pea plants are delicate and really should not be bothered until time for harvest. They are very susceptible to fungus diseases, which are best avoided by rotating where you plant your pea crop each year and growing the newest resistant varieties.

Everybody loves to turn under their pea plants at the end of the growing season, because of how rich in nitrogen they are. However it is vital that you don’t turn a crop under if there is any reason to believe the crop may have been infected.

Just like there is a small window of opportunity when planting peas there is also a short period when peas must be picked from the vine. Just like sweet corn if you let peas stay on the vine to long the sugar will turn to starch and the sweetness will no longer be there. It is also very important to pick peas right before you are going to cook them or the same thing will happen. The only way to avoid this is to freeze peas immediately. Freezing preserves the sweetness by not allowing the sugar to turn to starch.

Although peas can be very delicate plants they can be a great addition to the garden, where a shorter than normal growing season is the norm, and of course the supper table!

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