DIY Network

Plant It, Grow It, Eat It

How to Master Planting and Growing Peas

To be a successful pea picker, follow directions, keep the birds away and feed the soil.

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trellis can hold different plants on each side

Once you've selected what type of pea(s) you'd like to plant, you'll need some basic guidelines on planting the seeds and, soon after, caring for the young plants. Following you'll find valuable instructions and tips that will help you master the pea-planting process — perfectly.

To plant peas, follow the directions on the seed packet, sowing two-three seeds every 3 inches in a straight line. You can plant one type of peas along one side of the trellis and another type of peas along the other side of the trellis. Cover the seeds with a half-inch of soil and water them with the misting attachment on the water hose. Be careful not to wash away the seeds.

Keep Those Pea-Loving Birds Away

It's not just people that like peas, birds love them too. That's why it's important to keep birds away from the seeds. One way to do this is to add strips of tin foil to the trellis. Fold a piece of tinfoil until it's a long thin strip. Now tie it to the trellis with string. The fluttering and shiny foil will make the birds afraid to come near the newly planted seeds. At least a dozen foils strips are needed on the trellis to keep the birds away.

Plant bush peas the same way as the other peas, with two-three seeds spaced every 3 inches. To give bush peas a little support and to protect them from birds place wooden dowels about every foot along the row. You can just push them into the dirt with your hand if the soil is loose. At the top of each dowel tie a piece of plastic ribbon tape. You can find this in your local home center in a variety of colors. The tape will flap in the wind and will scare the birds away just like the tin foil strips on the trellis.

Give Your Peas Some Companionship

Another way to protect plants and seeds is through companion planting. This means putting plants together that can help each other out. One example of this is planting marigolds with plants that are susceptible to aphids and beetles. The scent marigolds release causes bugs to avoid areas where they're planted. You can buy marigolds by the flat at your local garden center. Since southern peas attract beetles, you can plant French marigolds around the perimeter of your beds. Marigolds will deter the beetles. The flowers will bloom all summer, making the garden look nice as well as keeping away pests. Marigolds also discourage harmful nematodes that live under the soil and attack plant roots.

Farmers have been using companion plants for centuries as a way to control pests in the garden. Grape farmers used to plant roses at the end of each vine row. They looked at the roses for early signals of bugs and viral infections. There are other reasons to interplant as well. Many vegetables taste better planted next to other plants. Planting basil with tomatoes is an example. Check with your local extension service to learn more about companion planting and which combinations grow in your area.

Peas and other members of the bean family are beneficial to the garden because they add nitrogen to the soil where they're grown. Peas do add nitrogen back into the soil at the end of the season but you want to be careful not to plant peas in the same place year after year. The reason to rotate crops is that plants of the same family often need the same nutrients. If you plant them in the same place over and over again, the most needed nutrient may disappear from that plot of ground. Another reason for crop rotation is that similar plants are victim to the same pests and diseases. If you move them every year, you make it more difficult for pests and diseases to take hold in your garden.

Hold the Mulch

After a few weeks, the plants should be up and ready to be thinned out. When you thin you want to keep the healthiest looking plants and discard the rest. After you finish thinning the plants it's time to mulch. It's better to wait until the plants come up before adding mulch. You may know that plants benefit from mulch, but too much can cause more harm than help. If you live in a humid area its better not to mulch them too much because mulch holds moisture that can trap mildew. If you live in a dry place the benefit of using mulch to keep in ground moisture may be more important than fighting mildew.

Southern peas, which are actually a bean, are also known as field peas because of the way they used to be planted. Peas were used as feed for cattle, turkeys, pheasants, deer and a variety of other woodland animals. Farmers would sow the seeds in a field rather than a garden since that is where the animals would eat the peas. Then the farmer would pile sticks on the ground over the seeds to keep the birds and animals out until the peas were ready to be eaten. The sticks would give the plants support and the peas would make the soil more fertile for future crops of hay or wheat.

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