The Princess and the October – Sown Pea

The Princess and the October – Sown Pea

WHAT is it with the October heat wave? I’ve lived in Los Angeles long enough to know that this is our hottest season. Despite my protestations that it should be time for boots and sweater weather, October greets me full of fire-inducing, hot Santa Ana winds and the temptation to buy an air conditioner. But I can’t seem to get over wish for a cold, damp, blustery fall, pumpkin patches, fires in the wood stove instead of the surrounding hills, veggies roasting in a crockpot for a hot, filling dinner.

Whether your weather collaborates with your seasonal dreams or not, October is a good time to sow certain seeds, especially peas: snow peas or snap, if you get them in the ground now, you’ll have a jump on fresh peas for a spring harvest.  I’ve always loved snow peas, whether it’s the crunch they add to a stir-fry or the reminder of the princess who felt the slight change beneath her 20 mattresses, reminding me that I can be high maintenance about a few things.  “You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.”  ~ When Harry Met Sally

Despite their princess-y reputation, peas are pretty easy to grow, though you have to give some special attention when it comes to watering them.

How to plant your peas:

  • Pick a sunny spot to plant, but if it’s still hot (heeeey L.A.), pick a place where other plants provide some cooler shade for your new peas. suggests planting where your corn or pole beans might provide some relief from the heat.
  • Peas prefer loamy soil, but you can loosen your heavier soil by adding some organic compost to it prior to sowing your seeds.
  • Sow seeds by hand in a row, broadcasting them to fall where they may.  Cover with 2 inches of soil. Rows should have approximately 18” to 24” between them.
  • Limited for space? suggests you “plant ‘Alderman’ heirloom garden peas or ‘Super Sugar’ snap peas on a trellis or fence. This way you can get maximum yields using only a few square feet of garden space.”
  • Much like the fabled princess feeling that little bump 20 mattresses below her, peas are a bit finicky when it comes to watering: too much will water-log them, too little when the seeds are germinating or blooming, and you won’t get a good crop. Water deeply once a week, and once the pea plants are up, give them a 1/2 inch or more of water every week.
  • No need to fertilize: peas, and especially snow peas, are the hosts to good bacteria, fixing the nitrogen levels in your soil.
  • Peas are ready to harvest about three weeks after a plant blossoms.  Taste the pea pod straight off the vine, and if they’re ready to pick, use them within a few hours for the best, sweetest taste.

“On the side” is a very big thing for you.”  (When Harry Met Sally)  How do you prefer your peas?  In the pod, tossed in a salad or stir-fry?  Steamed or added to a Thanksgiving mystery casserole?  Tell us any tricks and tips you’ve learned about growing and harvesting peas in the comments or over on Twitter @TheCityFarm.

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