They’re Alive!

Last year, I had a terrible time with peas. Very low germination. And, of the plants that came up, at least half mysteriously withered within a couple of weeks. All in all, I got about ten pods for fifteen feet of row. Meaning I would have had better results if I had just left the seeds in the fridge. Epic fail.

I tried again this year, planting my peas February 22. And I got a lot of encouragement from all of you that peas are easy to grow, last year must have been a fluke, and this year would certainly be my year for a bumper crop. So I went a week without worrying. But the second week after planting, I started getting nervous. I mean, what could they possibly be doing down there for fourteen days? By Day 16, I was sure that, once again, my peas had decided they would rather die early deaths than ever be seen in my garden.

Then, just a few days ago, as I was bending down to check out some new growth on the neighboring strawberries, I saw it: a tiny, hunched-over sheaf of green poking up through the now-crusty soil. A tiny, solitary hero! Even if I had unintentionally killed the rest, this one was bravely soldiering on!

And, as it turns out, over the next three days, that little sprout was joined by a whole company of friends, as they one by one heaved aside soil that was caked hard by last week’s rains and this week’s baking sun. The strength of these little guys is prodigious! My Mammoth Melting Sugar snow peas, Amish Snap peas, and even the three-year-old Burpeeana Early peas all beautifully unfurled into the sun.

Which meant I needed to make a pea trellis. I’d put it off because…well, because frankly I was skeptical that there would be anything to grow on it. But two of my three varieties are climbers, and the seed catalog says Amish Snap is “extra tall.” So, motivated by newly renewed visions of gorgeous clambering vines, I marched back into the woods behind our house and sawed off some not-too-crooked saplings of ailanthus, a so-called “weed tree” that’s very useful for garden supports. And since it grows incredibly fast, I don’t have to feel at all guilty about cutting it down. I have read that ailanthus produces chemicals that can inhibit the growth of other plants, but I used it for all sorts of things last year and didn’t notice any negative effects. Maybe once the wood is dead it’s not such a big deal? Does anyone else use this tree for this kind of thing?

Anyway, I pushed several of the poles into the ground around my row of peas, put an extra long one across the top, and lashed everything together with cotton string. (Something heavier-duty probably would have been better, but, well, that’s what I had. If it falls apart in the next couple of days, I’ll just put it back together.) Then I wrapped string around the bottoms of the poles and ran it from this base up and over the crosspiece at the top, for the peas to wrap their tendrils around and climb. I’m not absolutely sure it’s strong enough–I don’t know how heavy mature pea vines are, and we do get some pretty high winds around here–but the ailanthus trees are very flexible, and I’m hoping that that, along with the bracing you can see in the photo, will keep the whole thing standing.

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. spiceblogger says:

    Hooray! Glad your patient paid off 🙂
    Here’s to a bumper pea crop this year!

  2. garden.poet says:

    Congrats! This brings to mind my experience last year with the trellis…I propped up a lattice fence something-or-other on some 5-6 foot sticks lying around the yard. It ended up almost pulling down the garden fence it was set against, even though most of the peas died. (slugs) However, this looks lighter, so I have high hopes of success stories later on. 🙂

    1. Sharon says:

      Yeegads, slugs! Another thing for me to worry about! 🙂

  3. kate says:

    I think I ended up with about 12 pea pods last year! This year I’m going to plant lots more and hope I have better luck. Your trellis looks great!

  4. Excellent stuff! Your trellis is impressive. I’m not sure why, but everyone seems to have one species that is just difficult to grow. Mine oft failing crop is my strawberries. The grubs seem to get to the roots every time and my perfectly healthy plants wilt and die. Your writing and descriptions were excellent. Keep up the good work.

    1. Sharon says:

      Aw, thanks for the encouragement. 🙂 Nice to know that it isn’t ALWAYS because I’m doing something wrong…

  5. You did it, Sharon! And I’m lovin’ the handmade trellis. (Or is it trellises..?) 😀

  6. Hunting says:

    In general, I like tying things together, instead of nailing them. It seems more flexible, and its less work.

  7. We have to start our peas off in cells in the cool greenhouse because we have very hungry voles on the allotment.

  8. katedefleury says:

    I haven’t had much luck with “normal” peas, either, but I grow mange tout types in troughs against the wall of the house. They don’t climb high, and having them close by means that I can just pick a few when I want them and keep a close eye on the watering! Good luck – your trellis looks great – we have the same problem with high wind here, so will be interested to see if it survives.

    1. Sharon says:

      I think mange-tout are what we call snap peas, where you can eat the pod and everything. Is that right? That’s what my Amish Snap are, and I’m looking forward to tasting them this year!

      1. katedefleury says:

        Yes, that’s right in general – except that what I knew originally as “mange tout” are normally flatter; in the UK “sugar snaps” were introduced later and seem to be more like normal peas, but just harvested younger. What I grow are called Oregon Sugar Pod – they are flat-ish, and quite crunchy. I love them!

      2. Sharon says:

        Ah! We call those “snow peas”! I even grew some Oregon Sugar Pod the first year I tried peas, and they did marvelously. (I only wished I had planted more than a couple of square feet!)

  9. Jennifer says:

    Laughed so hard at this post to know I’m not alone as I’m staring at my dry, cracked dirt and wondering “what are they doing down there?” May your peas wax ever abundant!

    1. Sharon says:

      Haha! Glad to know I’m not the only one, either. 🙂

  10. marvegal says:

    I had problems with these guys last year too. Trying them earlier but just putting them in with the potatoes this week:)
    yours look great!

    1. Sharon says:

      Hi! Thanks for stopping by. Hope yours turn out as well as mine are this year (finally!).

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