Pea Trials 2010

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Remind me next year that the ‘Oregon Sugar Pod‘ peas are going to need better supports than the split bamboo poles I stuck in around them before overwintering. They have grown at least a foot up and over the side of the raised bed and another two feet back down to the ground. (They are growing in the old potato bed, so it’s deep.) The packet says to expect 28″ vines but I’m getting a tape measure out for these guys. They have done well, and are a sweet treat when you’re working out in the garden, but they are getting a little moldy on the shady side after all the rain we’ve been having. We lost some pods to frost but the vines held on and continued to grow and produce flowers and new pods. I will definitely grow them through the winter again.

The other side of the same bed has ‘Cascadia‘ snap peas, which haven’t been nearly as productive. Welcome, certainly, but hard to find even though the vines look good and there seems to be no shortage of flowers. The pods are harder to spot, and some of them have been lost to a sort of rot that seems to start at the flower end in all this wet weather. I am keeping them picked and hoping they will make us more peas when the weather clears. I have another patch of them starting across the garden.

That patch of ‘Cascadias‘ is growing along with the last of my ‘Sugar Daddy‘ seeds. I have two plantings of ‘Sugar Daddy‘ growing in the center of this year’s potato bed, the ones I started in the ground and the ones I started in the house the same day and then transplanted. Unless transplant shock is a bigger setback than I anticipate, I’ll be starting my pea seeds indoors from now on. You should see what we have to go through defending pea seeds and shoots in the garden! I have nets and cages, row cover and bird tape, cat-attractors and anti-squirrel devices. The Pisello Nano, “dwarf peas,” ‘Piccolo Provenzale‘ I planted today are under glass to help them get established without being molested.

I also started a patch of ‘Amish Snap‘ peas from Seed Savers Exchange. These vines are predicted to grow 5-6’ tall and I put in the supports to hold them. I also have Pisello Rampicante (which I think means “Climbing peas”) ‘Telephono‘ peas starting under one of the teepees we used last year for beans. The kids planted seeds and then we were hit with crazy winter storms, so I filled in with transplants I had seeded indoors again. And there are seeds left in the packet which I may start tomorrow. They are growing alongside another Italian climbing pea variety called ‘Gigante Svizzero‘ or Swiss Giant even though the packet says this is an old French variety. It takes an international cast of thousands to grow peas around here. ;-) These are new for us, but they look like something in between a snow pea and a snap pea. I’m curious to see how they do.

And, of course, there are the ‘Freezonian‘ peas as well. I am trying to start a good-sized patch of them in the back garden this year. They will get a little shade there as things warm up, which might help them hang on longer if it’s warm.

That gives us ten varieties to try:

Snow Peas – ‘Oregon Sugar Pods’ and ‘Gigante Svizzero
Snap Peas – ‘Cascadia,’ ‘Sugar Daddy‘ and ‘Amish Snap
Shelling Peas, dwarf – ‘Petit Pois,’ ‘Laxton Progress No. 9,’ ‘Freezonian‘ and ‘Piccolo Provenzale
Shelling Peas, pole – ‘Telephono

Oh! And I am still hoping to get organic ‘Green Arrow‘ seeds from Seed Savers. They just looked so perfect in the picture. *Sigh* I know it takes a ton of vines and the right conditions for a home vegetable gardener to enjoy a big ol’ bowl of fresh peas swimming in butter, but I can still hope, can’t I?

Pea Trials Year 2

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Pea pod in hand

Fall Wando Success

This year, rather than start the Pea Trial in January, I decided it might be worth while to try growing different varieties right through the winter. I started with a shelling pea that I always see mentioned along with it’s resistance to heat, Wando, and planted it on August 13th. I figured it had the best chance with our fall weather. Maybe it was just luck, but we have been eating peas in the garden from this small test patch since October right into December. Frost got some of them, but the plant has put out new flowers and started over.

In mid-September some of the Dirt to Dinner kids and I planted two more test patches of peas. One side is Cascadia snap peas and the other is Oregon Sugar Pod snow peas. Pea plantingThese have also survived the three or four frost days and the winter winds. If it gets too cold though, the pods on the vine are ruined. But we pick them off and toss them into the compost and the plant puts out more flowers. I put in a test patch of Thomas Laxton peas on October 31st but as soon as I thought it was safe to take the burlap off of them (11/15) the patch was decimated by whatever evil critter out there chews the leaves off all the sprouting vines. I have to remember that in the Dirt to Dinner garden peas planted directly in the soil need protection until they are well established.

We also have another small patch of Petit Pois peas put in on November 12th with starts from Yamagami’s in Cupertino.

These diminutive peas are authentic French petit pois and are ever so sweet, ready to use at miniature size, when the slim pods are just 3” to 4” long. Each pod contains six or seven tiny peas, less than half the size of regular shelling peas. Their buttery flavor and tenderness cannot be matched! Plentifully produces petit pois on disease-resistant, 18” to 24” vines. These small, delicate vines need support.

Block planted Petit Pois

Petit Pois Perfect

The plants are still pretty petite right now at the end of December. I haven’t seen any flowers develop but they are shaded by a massive tomato plant I was trying to winter over. Not sure that experiment is going to be worth the space or potential shade cast though. The tomato is a very unhappy grey-green right now that does not bode well. Maybe I will cut it back to whatever looks healthy and green and give the poor peas some more sunlight. I’ll check their color more closely when the rain lets up.

On Christmas, which was a gorgeous gardening day here, I put in about 50 Sugar Daddy snap pea seeds, under covers and started another 30 in the garage as back-up just in case those get destroyed. In January I plan to do some of the Italian pea varieties we liked from the trial last year and I swear there is a packet of Laxton’s Progress peas around here somewhere that are waiting to be planted. If only I could remember what I did with them!

Peas and Potatoes

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Potatoes Looking Done

Potatoes Looking Done

Last weekend at our Open House the kids harvested the last of the All Blue potatoes. The plants were looking pretty sad by the time we got to them. Which is fine. That’s what potato plants do. When the vines die down then you have an easy way to tell that they aren’t doing anything more to grow the potatoes and you can take them out of the ground now. The ones I hadn’t already stolen ‘new’ for potato salads, that is.

This week during our Open Garden time, we pulled the spent vines and tossed them into the compost. Then we added a layer of finished compost and the worm castings we saved when we added a new level to the worm farm and mixed those in well with the existing soil.

Split Bamboo to Keep the Dew and Mold Off the Plants

Split Bamboo to Keep the Dew and Mold Off the Plants

Peas like to have something to climb on, even if they aren’t the pole varieties that grow very tall. On one side we put in Cascadia Snap peas and the seed packet says they climb to 32″. Our poles extend well beyond that, but we figured there was no harm and that way the poles stay a good size to use with our determinant tomato plants in the Spring.

The other side of the bin holds Oregon Sugar Pod Snow Peas, the ones that you pick and eat flat. We are only expecting those vines to grow to 28″ or so, but it still helps to keep pea vines off the ground when you are growing them in the Fall. We don’t know if the weather will be wet or the slugs will be hungry so climbing gives the vines a little bit of an edge against both bugs and disease. Peas also don’t like to be touched and having them staked will make it easier for us to harvest the peas without messing too much with the sensitive vines or possibly spreading disease from one plant to another.

Spacing Out the Pea Seeds

Spacing Out the Pea Seeds

The Cascadia peas are planted ~1″ to 1 1/2″ apart and the Oregon Sugar Pod packet insists that they need 2″. The packet actually says “Seed Spacing: 2″ (Yes. 2″)” which made me feel like they knew me and maybe had seen how closely we had packed in the peas last year during the Winter Pea Trial. I think for one of those varieites we calculated almost 100 peas planted in a single square foot. We gave the Oregon Sugar Pods each their 2″. If they don’t all sprout we can always fill in next week when we see what we’ve got coming up.

The middle section of the bed on the Oregon Sugar Pod side we planted some Golden Beets. Next week during Open Garden we can keep filling in the bed. It might be nice to try some greens along the front of the bed where they will get a bit of shade and we have a seed donation package coming from Territorial Seed Company that might have some interesting things in it we’ll want to add. We also still have kale, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and celery plants we have started that are all getting ready to look for more permanent homes. There’s always plenty to do in the Dirt to Dinner garden!