Time to Plant Peas

As for Miss Marple, once she had caught a glimpse out of her bedroom window of Lucy Eyelesbarrow really trenching for sweet peas in the proper way, she had leaned back on her pillows with a sigh of relief..
Agatha Christie, 4.50 From Paddington

The wattle is yellow on the hillsides, and the daffodils are blooming their heads off in the garden, which can only mean one thing - it is time to plant peas. Peas are very hardy and are one of the first crops to go into the spring garden. However, if you live somewhere cold, where the soil is still definitely sulking, your peas will be much happier for being trenched.  They will stay warmer in early Spring, and their roots will stay moister as the weather warms and the soil dries out.

Trenching peas involves exactly what it sounds like - digging a trench along the row where you want to plant your peas. The 'proper' depth for the trench is 30cm, or a spade's depth, but my soil is fairly light and free draining, so I just dug a trowel's depth instead.

Into this I tipped a layer of compost from my compost bin, then a layer of weeds. It wasn't difficult to find a bucketful of fresh, juicy spring weeds to sacrifice to the greater good of happy peas. The layer of weeds will slowly rot down, providing first warmth in the cold spring soil, then an open airy space for the peas' roots to penetrate, and then the trench will collapse slightly as the weeds' volume compacts down, and there will be a nice trench to fill with water as the weather gets warmer and drier. The weeds and compost also provide a sponge effect to retain moisture. This very simple little trench provides many benefits to the lucky peas.

Another layer of compost, and then returning the soil to fill the trench up to the top.

I soak pea seeds overnight before planting them to give them a head start in the ground - this also allows you to see which pea seeds will be viable. The good ones plump up, rehydrate and sink, while the duds stay wrinkly and float on the surface of the water.

Pea sticks are always useful for the pea vines to twine up. I use prunings from the apricot tree. There. The first garden job of spring. Done.

Updated to add: My friend Katherine noted that I missed a step above.. after you have soaked the peas you plant them in the top layer of soil above the compost. A rule of thumb for planting seeds is to plant them at a depth of twice the diameter of the seed. Ironic isn't it.. a post on planting peas which misses out the part where you plant the seeds.. thanks Katherine:)


Treaders said…
I'm so envious that you are moving into spring - it's my favourite season. Not that I'm moaning as the heat is abating here and I can actually breathe now. Oh, and thank you for playing go-between for Lucinda and me - I have no idea why she couldn't post on my blog. Anna
Jo said…
Anna, autumn is my favourite season, so we can enjoy this season for each other.. although I have a very soft spot for daffodils..
Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo!

Mama mia! I had forgotten that I usually plant some peas in the fall. And - now - trenching it shall be. Thanks! I planted carrots and radishes yesterday.

Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Thanks for the timely reminder to plant peas - and also for the most excellent trenching method. Good stuff.

As an interesting side story (and I do digress, it's a bad habit), when we first purchased this block of land the soil was a hard clay pan where water ran over it and the clay was scorched yellow / orange in the sun. Just like your trenches I used to dig in my kitchen scraps all over the place. Unfortunately, the wombats and foxes used to dig the scraps up after I was gone and use them for a free feed...

Love the daffodil photo too, and there are so many plants in the photo. Is that an orchid at the base of the daffodils?

Anonymous said…
I love this post - the detailed how to guide (never heard of trenching, love learning something new) but I mostly love how this post has the promise of new life, new growth. Winter is over. I can see you'll have peas a plenty.

I've always wanted to grow sweet peas. They're my second favourite flower. Of course they'd provide me with no foof. Only beauty.
Jo said…
Pam, peas in autumn are brilliant! I neglected to put any in last autumn, due to some distraction or other, but I am regretting it now as I would be expecting early peas any week now if I had.. still, spring pea planting will be better than no peas at all. Well done on getting your carrots in while there is still time. I must confess, I have never had success with carrots, but I am going to try again this year.

Chris, it is white and purple violets under the daffodils. I am so excited about this little garden under the apricot tree. When I moved in last year it was knee high in weeds, but as I've cleared it I have found so many treasures - violets, daffodils, jonquils, cuban lillies, a pineapple lily, forget-me-nots, nerines. It's like the secret garden!

I can see your trenching method has improved your farm soil immeasurably - it takes a lot of effort and kitchen scraps though!

Lucinda, a new season is always a joy, but spring is a bit special. Fruit blossom, daffodils! You should absolutely plant sweet peas. Use the trenching method for the longest flowering period - it's what the gardeners who exhibit their sweet peas do. If you plant them on a wigwam, just trench in a circle where you are planting:)

The new leaves of sweet peas are just as edible as the leaves of any pea plant:)
Jo said…
PS But don't eat the seeds of the sweet pea. They may be toxic in large quantities.. I'm sure you won't eat them, but you know, just in case..
heather said…
Hi Jo-
It was nice to read about an emerging spring. We are suffering a heat wave here- 110 degrees F again today- so I am not planting anything for a while. But like Pam, I'll put in some fall peas when the weather breaks a bit.

My one good season of carrots, I babied them at first, by putting an old towel down over the newly-sown seed and keeping it moist so that the soil didn't crust over. I had to check underneath every day until they sprouted, and then take it off and put a shade cover to keep from scorching the little babies. But I had yummy juicy carrots, wall-to-wall that fall! Needless to say, I haven't replicated the feat since. But the possibility is out there!

And Lucinda, you might not get food from sweet peas (or maybe you will! I never knew you could eat the leaves!), but they will improve your soil! They fix nitrogen like other legumes, so you can feel all garden-virtuous while enjoying their scent.

--Heather in CA
Jo said…
Heather, I have heard of the germination technique of using damp fabric over the seeds. It's good to know it can be done! My problem was excellent green growth with hardly any actual carrot. I THINK where I went wrong was too much fertiliser, leading to all the growth going into the leaves. Next time I will starve the poor little things and see what happens!

Now, I have done some reading about eating sweet peas - I thought I had better make sure I was not spreading misinformation - and what I have discovered from the internet is a)sweet pea leaves flowers and peas are fine to eat in moderation and b)sweet pea leaves, flowers and peas are deadly poisonous and will kill you. So I will leave you all to do your own research on the subject. I personally have eaten sweet pea leaves and flowers and I am not dead, but maybe that was a fluke..?
Pam in Virginia said…

My peas have been planted, using the trenching method. We shall see how that fairs (fares?) in a fall planting.

Jo said…
Can't wait to hear how it goes!

Popular Posts