Growing Peas

Patricia Arledge, Sharpe, Kenneth W.  |  6/6/2012 12:29:10 AM

News Article for May 21, 2012:

Strawberries traditionally wind up for the growers by Mother’s Day. A home gardener may be able to keep them going a little longer because the economics of labor does not come into play. After the strawberry crop is finished, the growers will plant peas to help build up the soil for next year’s crop.

Southern peas do make a good green manure crop to be tilled back into the soil but you can also pick the peas first. Peas will thrive in the summer heat and therefore are a good second crop to plant in the garden after strawberries or other traditional spring vegetables. You can plant peas anytime through the summer up until about early August. They will be ready to harvest 50-85 days after planting, depending on the variety.

If you planted a spring garden and fertilized, such as you would for strawberries, you probably will not need to fertilize your peas. If this is your first planting of the season then use 2-3 pounds of 8-8-8 or the equivalent per 100 foot of row prior to planting. Peas are legumes and do not need a lot of nitrogen.

Peas are planted at a spacing of 3 to 4 inches apart within the row. This spacing will require 4-6 ounces of pea seed to plant a 100 foot row. The seed should be planted at a depth of ½ inch.

Southern pea is a broad category that we use to include purple hull peas, black-eyed peas, Crowder peas and cream peas.

Purple hull peas are a favorite of mine. As a child growing up I got into a lot less trouble picking purple hulled peas because I could tell which one were ready to harvest. They would turn purple when they were mature so I did not pick them too immature, which seemed to bother my dad. Recommended varieties of purple hull peas are Mississippi Pinkeye Purple Hull, Pinkeye Purple Hull, Texas Pinkeye and Quickpick.

Crowder peas are another favorite and they get there name from the characteristic of the peas crowding each other in the pod and making the ends of each pea blunt. Crowder peas will tend to have higher starch content than other southern pea varieties. Recommended varieties of Crowder peas would be Mississippi Purple, Mississippi Silver, Mississippi Shipper and Dixie Lee.

Black eyed peas are a New Year's Day tradition at our house. They get their name from the distinct eye of the seed which is colored dark or black. Their pods can be green or purple depending on the variety. Recommended black-eyed pea varieties would include Royal Black, Queen Ann and Magnolia Black.

The last category of southern peas is cream peas. While the other three peas will produce a brown pea when cooked, the cream peas will be light green or white at maturity and will not turn brown or darker as they are cooked. Recommended varieties of cream peas would include Zipper Cream, Mississippi Cream and Elite.

A good yield for peas would be one bushel for every 100 feet of row planted, with a bushel of peas yielding about 10-12 pounds of shelled peas. Peas are relatively easy to put up in the freezer and can extend your garden vegetables into the winter. There is still time for 2 planting of peas before the end of the growing season if you hurry.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at

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