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Perfect peas

Prof Walker prepares the ground for his Christmas crop of peas.

Welcome to my garden. I want to talk about peas — how we can grow a good crop and make it last as long as possible. I don't think there's anything to touch fresh garden peas for dinner.

So where do we sow our peas?
PeasWell, I always sow my legumes — peas and beans, because they can fix their own nitrogen from the air — where I've dug in sweetcorn tops.

But they do need those bacteria that form the nodules on the roots. And whilst they're here in my soil, if you're starting a new area for the first time, particularly if you're remote from anywhere, those bacteria may not be present in the soil. They might be present on the seed, but to make quite sure, take a little soil from an old garden, which will certainly contain the bacteria, and mix it with your peas and you'll be all right.

I'll be planting Alderman peas in this area where I've grown runner beans for 10 years. I had to give the soil a rest, so I've grown tomato crops for two years. These peas will give me a chance to sow them back into runner beans when they come out in January.

PeasOnce you've selected your site, what do you need to put on it?
Well, it shouldn't be too acid, your soil, so check your pH. Make sure it's not much below 6. In my case, I know my soil's relatively rich in nutrients. It's nitrogen-deficient here because of the sweetcorn tops. All I've done is give a 5cm layer of compost, which I've hoed in.

If your soil is not that rich, it'd pay you to use a little of a complete fertiliser. Something like Nitrophoska Blue.

How do you sow them?
I sow my peas in double rows. They're wide enough apart for me to get my hoe between, to start with, to keep down the weeds. But once they grow up a bit, I have to weed them by hand.

PeasEach seed's planted 2cm or 3cm deep, about 5cm apart. Then I cover them up and firm them in with the back of the rake. This keeps the moisture rising.

Edna and I love to be eating fresh garden peas for as long as possible. So I start in early August, as soon as I can get on the land, and sow my first lot of peas. Once they're 10cm or so high, I sow the second, and once they're poking through, I sow the third.

What else?
Now, in addition, this year, I'm growing Massey — a dwarf, which takes only 67 days to reach maturity. Then Green Feast, which takes 75, and then Onward, which I've just sown, which takes 97, on the average. Finally, I shall be sowing Trounce, which is resistant to mildew, and also the Snow Pea, which is also resistant to mildew for the later crops.

PeasIf you harvest these at the right time, when their sugar content is the highest, I don't think it matters what variety you grow.

I go along the row tasting them, and when they're at their peak of sweetness, that's the time to harvest.

Sometimes sparrows and other birds will pull out the peas just as they're germinating, so it's a good idea to use twigs in the ground, a few inches high, and stretch cotton in between them. This helps to keep the birds off because they get their legs tangled up in it and are frightened.

Although these are Massey dwarf peas, I still like to support all my peas. I think it's so much easier to harvest them if they're off the ground. So here goes. These are made from number-eight wire, and they'll be used to support all my peas.

Don't forget to water your peas well. It's most important at that stage, if you want a bumper crop.

Best of luck with your peas.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH
 
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