Here on Pig Row this is the month for direct sowing. The soil now has warmed up enough to sow some peas beside those started off in the greenhouse and planted outside. There is nothing simpler than starting a new row of peas. Start with a clear patch of ground and take a hoe or the back of a rake scraping out a shallow drill, then water the drill. Open your seed packet and pour out a good handful into your palm. I advise you broadcast them not too thickly over the bottom of the freshly watered drill. Move your open hand back and forth gently letting the peas slide out and fall where they fall. You can fill in any gaps as you go back over the drill. Then cover up the seeds with the soil you scraped away.
All peas need support, traditionally pea sticks are used. Pea sticks are coppiced wood or woody prunings from last season. The same effect can be achieved with bamboo canes with plastic netting tied to it.
At Pig Row we use bamboo and wire, giving a sturdy support to the growing peas; this is due to the exposed nature of our site. The bamboo canes are either tied as wigwam with nine canes or in A-frame rows. The wire is then runs horizontally at eight, twenty and thirty four inch intervals binding the bamboo together in a rigid frame that still has flexibility we need on the exposed hillside. Remember, these measurements are not set in stone and work for us at Pig Row but most growing is by trial and error and you will find something that will work for you.
Some pea varieties are dwarf and need no support but others tower to the heady heights of five or six feet. One year at Drovers I achieved several plants over seven feet.
Find the variety suited best for your location, it is no good growing a tall variety in a window box and there are varieties suit everyone from the heritage half pint pea, a dwarf variety from the 1800s that gets barely above fifteen inches. Half pint loves it on a sunny windowsill or patio (from Plants of Distinction at http://www.plantsofdistinction.co.uk). Half pint is a variety I grew at Drovers in pots attached to the fence, they carpeted the tops of the palings in frothy white flowers and bushy green tendrils. Sadly, over the last few years half pint has become a rarity in the catalogues.
At Pig Row I have grown Alderman, a tall variety that is heavy cropping (from Thompson & Morgan at http://www.thompson-morgan.com) but this year I return to my heritage favourite NE Plus Ultra, a sweet marrowfat pea that stores well. It is still saved year in year out from the original seed planted by me eleven years ago (from Tucker Seeds at http://tuckers-seeds.com). If you can track down half pint or NE Plus Ultra down then leave some pods on the plant to dry and you will have seed for the following year.
At Pig Row, I am also trying Kelvedon Wonder, this prolific pea has been given the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS but it is the first time I’ve grown it. Kelvedon Wonder was a popular choice in my years on the allotments, neighbours would grow it but I never got round to it but the growth and taste deserve the AGM moniker (from Mr Fothergills at http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk). Don’t forget that the pea family is large and for everyone you find that you dislike there will be five that you can’t get enough of.