Controlling Pests and Diseases on Pea Plants
Once your peas are off to a healthy start, you'll want to ensure they continue to thrive. Protect and maintain the plants by taking these simple yet effective steps:
Wilt Starts Inside the Plant
Southern peas are susceptible to fusarium wilt, which attacks a plant from inside, leaving it unable to move water through its stem and leaves. No water means no peas. This disease lives in the soil causing the plant to rot. Watering in the morning or using drip irrigation rather than spray irrigation is helpful. Remove any affected plants immediately to keep wilt from spreading to other plants.
Seed companies are developing products that are stronger and healthier than ever before. Read seed packets carefully to see if there are any disease-resistant varieties of the plants you're looking for. These plants have a better chance for a healthy future.
Always dispose of diseased plants by pulling them out of the ground and throwing them in the trash, never add them to the compost pile. Diseases can spread easily in a garden so there's no reason to take any chances.
Cutworms Come in a Rainbow of Colors
Cutworms are a very big problem for vegetables and flowers, including peas. Sometimes they will attack vines and trees. Cutworms come in many different types and colors. They are caterpillars that are hairless and normally around 2 inches long. One cutworm could eat all the foliage of one plant in a night and then move on to its next meal. One way to get rid of cutworms is to pick them off by hand and destroy them. Another is using Bacillus thuringiensis also called Bt. Bt is a natural way to destroy many types of caterpillars and not harm beneficials.
Peas can get a little out of control if left to grow any which way. An easy trick for taming peas is to use twist ties to get them back in line. These are the same ties you find on a loaf of bread. Just grab the straying vine and tie it to the trellis with a few quick twists. Make sure you don't tie it tightly or the plant won't be able to grow, or worse, it might cut through the stem. Tying up loose vines will keep the plant more organized and make it easier for you to see the peas at harvest time. You could also use a short piece of string or Velcro tape to do this. Just be careful to not break the stem as you bend it into place.
Harvest When the Shell Changes Colors
Harvesting peas is fun and easy, but there are a few things to think about when picking peas. First, peas are bushy plants and the pods are often hiding under the leaves. Use your hand to brush the leaves out of the way as you work your way from one side of the plant to the other. You can also bend down and look up to see hidden pods. Pea pods snap off easily and you can use your fingers to pick them. If you use a knife, be sure it's clean and disinfected of any disease that might spread from plant to plant.
You can tell if pea pods are ripe by looking and feeling for their fullness. Southern peas are ready when the shells begin to turn colors. Many begin to turn yellow or tan, but purple-hulled turn a dark purple or wine color. If you want to use the peas when they're fresh, pick them while they're still moist inside. If you plan on storing them for the winter, wait until they dry out and the pods begin to rattle. Just remember, to get more peas you need to keep harvesting them to trigger the plant to make more.
Peas can be harvested over the entire summer. To get the most peas out of your garden, plant peas every month during the growing season. This is called succession planting. Just make sure you compost your old pea plants to get the benefit of the nitrogen they release.