October in the garden – time to plant peas

In my zone 9 garden it is time to plant peas. Freshly gathered sugar snap or snow peas are nothing like the ones you buy in the grocery store or find at the farmer’s market. Just pulled off the vine peas are sweet, juicy and snappy. The natural sugars start turning to starch immediately so they are best, like corn, eaten immediately after picking. There are short varieties of both the snap and snow peas; the shorter varieties don’t shade the other veggies as much. Sun is a valuable commodity in my garden. I grow them along a short pea fence (the same one I use for cucumbers in the summer).

I don’t have enough room to grow regular shelling peas, the vines are very tall and you need a lot of them to produce enough peas for a meal. Frozen baby peas are actually quite good, inexpensive, available year round, and easy!

Sweet pea flowers are a delight! With just a few plants you can gather a vase full of flowers each week, for months. They are expensive to purchase, if you can even find them at the farmer’s market or florist. They are worth every inch of space in the garden.

Peas, ready for planting

Peas, ready for planting

Although it isn’t generally recommended, I decided to start the pea seeds in flats then transplant them into the planting bed later. This has some advantages, as the birds (and the monster cat) love the seedlings. I started the seeds in the fall this year because last springs crop was a failure; I was only able to harvest a few. My mistake was planting transplants into the garden in early April; there wasn’t enough time for them to produce a crop before our unseasonal heat wave. They succumbed to powdery mildew before they developed any pods. I used some of the tips of the pea shoots in salads but had to pull out the plants. This year I will overwinter them for an earlier crop. Peas need some warm weather to sprout but then do fine in cooler weather, they are even ok with a light frost.

I seeded 3 types of bush snap and snow peas all from Cook’s Garden:

All of them are bush or dwarf varieties and only need a short support system. The entire plant of these is edible, so shoots can be gathered for salads even before they produce any pods.

  • Dwarf Grey Sugar – a snow pea with lovely purplish grey leaves and two toned pink and purple flowers. After reading an article on the blog Frugalista Gardener, I couldn’t resist them.
  • Cascadia – snap pea
  • Sugar Daddy – snap pea

I also seeded some flowering sweet peas. They will be tall and need strong support when planted into the garden. I’ll use the bean tower. I grow sweet peas each year, they are lovely in an arrangement with roses and remind me of my grandmother. Their delightful scent will permeate an entire room. Putting a vase in the entrance hallway gives visitors and family a special greeting as they come in the front door.

Flowering sweet peas:

All of the seeds had their outer shell nicked with a nail clipper to hasten germination and were planted in plastic flats (recycled plastic arugula and kale containers from the grocery store). I seeded 2 peas per hole, 1 inch deep, and about 1.5 inches apart. The plastic containers went onto a wet seed mat. The mat wicks from a well of water below to keep consistent moisture level for germination. The APS system came from Gardener’s Supply. This gives me the freedom to go away for a few days and know the seedlings are getting consistent and proper moisture for germination.

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I planted them along a short pea fence last week. They are in one of four of my raised beds. As well into that bed went Watermelon radishes, arugula, and some spicy lettuce mixes. The cooler weather means I can start harvesting lettuce from the garden again. Hopefully they will get established before the really cold weather hits us, our first frost date is December 1.

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The sweet pea flowers were planted beside the bean tower, as they will get very tall. In the past I have planted way too many and been overwhelmed with picking flowers to keep the plants blooming. This year I was more restrained in the number of plants, and maybe more optimistic that they would do well. The Incense Peach variety was sold out last year, I’m pleased I was able to get some for this year.

It’s not too late to put in pea plants in zone 9, you will find a wide variety at your local nursery this month.

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