Peautiful: Organic Pea Seed Production!

Horizontal pea trellis 
Horizontal pea trellis

Planting Peas

This past week we planted nearly 7,000 pea seedlings representing 7 varieties: Sugaree Snap, Golden Sweetie, Green Beauty, Mammoth Melting, Oregon Sugar Pod II, Sugar Magnolia Purple and Sugar Snap.  We must have worked hard because we all had sore hamstrings then next day! Although peas are an easy crop to direct seed, years ago we switched to starting them in trays and transplanting after watching most of the pea seeds either rot in the ground due to weather or get eaten by gophers! The secret to transplanting peas with success is to plant them very young. If you allow the pea to get a large root system then they will become stunted and not do very well. This year we planted exactly three weeks after seeding the peas in trays with 98 cells.

We plant our peas in long beds 3 ft wide. To fit so many seedlings into a bed we triangulate the seedlings in 6 rows. After planting we water them in with a sprinkler. Later we'll put drip tape on the beds. Now the crucial part; we have found that row cover is essential to ensuring a crop. We use wires to create hoops then cover the entire bed with row cover. The row cover's main purpose is to prevent the birds from eating the fresh transplants!

When the peas are about 2 ft tall we pound metal t-stakes in on the sides of the bed and use hortinova 3 ft wide trellising to create a horizontal trellis. This works really well! After another 2 ft of growth a second layer of trellis is added. The effect is a wall o' peas and maximum yield.

Saving Pea Seed- Pisum sativum

Saving seed from peas is easy; the challenge is to not eat all your tasty seed! The flowers are perfect, meaning they have both female and male parts, and self pollinating, meaning they don't need insects for pollination. In addition, the shape of the pea flower itself prevents insects from entering the flower and crossing pollinating. Simply put, this means you only need to separate your pea varieties by 10-15 ft for purity. Because we are commercial growers we separate our peas by 30-45 ft.

To clean a quantity of seed you can wrap the dried pods in a sheet and stomp then winnow. Winnow means to blow the pods away using a fan or the wind. Once you have the dried pea seeds it is a good idea to freeze them for 4-5 days to kill the pea weevils (Bruchus pisorum). These are little bugs whose larvae burrow into the seeds, where they eat and become adults. Freezing will kill them and often the damaged peas will still germinate. Because of weevils it is important to harvest your peas as soon as they are dry. To determine if the peas are dry enough to freeze give them the shatter test. If they shatter when hit with a hammer you can freeze them. To store your seed think cool, dry and dark.  We use glass jars.

We'll be sure to post some photos of our pea walls later this season.




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