Garden Staples: Peas and Beans

Beans and peas seem fairly undemanding and easy to grow. Yet many gardeners suffer small yields and undersized crops. The answers to why this occurs are fairly simple.

Peas are basically a cool season crop, doing best in cold soil. In order to get a decent amount of peas, two things need to happen. First a soil inoculant has to be added to the beds prior to planting. This encourages beneficial microbes and fosters healthy growth. Fertilize and lime as directed by soil test results. (Kits can be purchased from local County Cooperative Extension Offices). If the soil is not tested, apply 1-2 inches of compost, work into soil, then 1.5 lb of 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 sq ft. Banding the fertilizer 2 inches to the side and 3 inches below the seed is desirable. Satisfactory results may also be obtained by broadcasting and working the fertilizer and compost into the soil before seeding. Do not apply excessive nitrogen. Peas need support, so any framework needs to be placed before planting. A teepee is the best way to get a big crop in a small space.

Planting depths for pea seeds should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep, with 2-3 feet between rows, and spaced 2-3″ between plants. This will give you a healthy start.

There are some newer low growing or dwarf varieties of pea, which require no support. If planting peas in rows the use of chicken wire, string or trellis work can aid them in their climbing habit.

Common pests afflicting peas of all varieties are pea aphids and root maggots. They can be controlled with insecticidal soap or Neem oil.

Peas need to be harvested while firm and bright green. Snow peas need to be picked before the seeds become too prominent inside the pods.

Beans are either the bush or pole type of plant. Bush beans offer heavy yields and require no staking. Pole beans can be grown on trellises, teepees or even underplanted with corn, using the stalks for support.

All green beans are unfussy when it comes to soil needs, but do benefit from side dressing with manure.

Plant bush beans in rows 12-18″ apart. Pole beans should be 8-10″ apart. The planting depth should be 1-1 1/2″ deep.

Beans need adequate water when beginning to flower. Mulching can help retain moisture, but frequent checking is advisable.

Beans are not particularly pest prone. The main predator is the Mexican bean beetle. You can control this pest by hand picking them off as soon as you spot them.

Beans should be harvested when they are anywhere from pencil thin for haricot or French Filet beans to firm and plump for bush varieties.

Growing these two great types of green vegetables is a great way to provide healthy nutrition for your family.

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