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Peas and broad beans

Posted by Guy Barter on 21 Apr 2009 at 08:07 AM

Peas and broad beans are the mainstay of mid-summer supplies.  The over-wintered mange-tout ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ peas did not do well.  Instead of ripping them out, broad beans were ‘stitched’ into the surviving peas.  As they get different pests and diseases the ailing peas won’t affect beans as they would peas.  There are enough pea plants to take a very light picking if all goes well.

The stitched in beans have emerged very well and will follow the early crop of over-wintered beans and the rather more numerous beans that were sown early to fill in the many gaps in the over-wintered beans after mice had done their worst.

Nearby quick-growing early peas ‘Avola’ and more ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ were sown last month and have emerged brilliantly with not a drop of mouse blood having to be spilt to protect them.  Fleece covers these peas and this is forcing them ahead (and keeping pigeons off) so the lack of the vital very early over-winter crop will be less annoying.

When peas and broad beans exceed 5cm it is time to consider sowing the follow-on crops. This time higher yielding, slower growing maincrop peas went in – ‘Ambassador’ for shelling and snap pods ‘Cascadia’ – these will yield abundantly at a time when little else is available so a triple row right across the plot was put in, 60 percent ‘Ambassador’ and the rest ‘Cascadia’.  The yield of ‘Cascadia’ with its edible pods is much greater than shelling peas.  There is no point forcing these with fleece as earliness is not required. Growing two types of peas with differing maturity times (snap peas are eaten before seeds really swell and therefore crop earlier then shelling peas) helps ensure continuous supplies.

Each pea plant produces only a few pods so many seeds have to be sown to get a high population of pea plants and therefore a worthwhile crop, hence the triple row with the aim of three rows 15cm apart that just allows hoeing and a pea plant every 5-8cm along each row.

For broad beans my supplies of the excellent ‘Witkiem Manita’ were expended in March replacing losses in the over-wintered crop.  However, I was so impressed with ‘Scorpio’ last year more seed has been acquired and sown.  ‘Scorpio’ has been bred for the vegetable freezing industry and is very high yielding but rather slow growing.  Therefore only half a double row was sown and the rest sown with ‘Medes’, a garden bean that should be rather speedier.  ‘Medes’ did well in RHS trials but is a new bean to me that I have not grown before. By sowing two types continuity is enhanced and gluts avoided, I hope.

Naturally protection from pigeons, deer and, later, jays is essential.  Stakes, in this case 1.8m treated battens, were set in rows across the area designated for peas and broad beans and netting will be laid over these supported on strings strung across the plot but leaving alleys to access the crop for weeding, watering and harvest.

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