In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2007
Regional Report

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The bucket in the middle of this pea planting makes a handy receptacle for water and fertilizer.

A Three-Season Harvest of Peas

If you think there's nothing better than eating fresh-picked peas, now is the time to begin succession plantings for a nine-month harvest of those tasty little morsels. The general plan is to plant a new batch of peas every three weeks from now until Thanksgiving, and again from the beginning of February until mid-April.

From Thanksgiving through January the soil is generally too thoroughly chilled to promote good germination, and the seeds will most likely either rot or wait for later warmth. Seeds that are planted later than mid-April, even of heat-resistant varieties, will develop into stunted plants that produce only a limited amount through June, even if they are kept well irrigated.

A Planting Schedule
To begin this continuous run of pea harvests, plant a selection of varieties that run the whole gamut of maturing dates, including those that develop quickly (with the smallest number of days until harvest), dwarf varieties (full-size peas, but no trellis needed), and those needing longer time to fruition.

Three weeks after this first planting, plant all these varieties again, and repeat this in another three weeks. Harvests from these plantings should carry you through the winter.

In late November, plant all the varieties again. Depending on the weather, these plants may still grow quickly if the soil is still warm, or they may start very slowly if the soil has cooled down a lot. In either case, plants will be well developed by the time the first warmth of early spring spurs them on, and then they'll blossom forth for the first heavy crop of the new year.

If the weather has already cooled down by the time you make this last planting, utilize individual greenhouses, cloches, cut-off milk cartons, or other coverings that will concentrate daytime warmth into the soil for better germination. Remove these coverings when the plants grow too large for them.

Edible-pod peas are easily damaged by hard frosts, which can occur anytime between Thanksgiving and the end of January. Although we haven't had hard frost the last several years, you never know what this year will bring. So planting them early enough in the fall will allow these first plantings to bear a good deal of their crop before any damage.

Frost damage of shelling pea pods will not affect the edible portion of the peas. Peas that have been frosted don't have to be discarded. Just pick them before the sun hits them in the morning, and place the pods or shelled peas in single layers on cookie sheets in the freezer. After they are frozen, gather them together in freezer storage bags. Use them later in stir-fries, stews, or soup recipes. Don't let them thaw first, however, or they'll become flabby and tend to overcook.

Succession plantings every three weeks from February through April will continue the harvest through June, or even longer if cool weather persists like it did last year.

What a wonderful way to enjoy something green growing in the garden and be eating those succulent morsels throughout the dreariness of winter!


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