What? Didn't you already plant peas in the spring?
If you did, chances are you probably already harvested them as well, since they are a cool weather crop, grow quickly and hate the heat.
But did you know you can plant them again for a fall harvest? Well, you can.
Peas are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in the garden and one that I believe walks a fine line between vegetable and ornamental. After all, the flower, sweet peas, are close cousins to the vegetable we also call sweet peas, garden peas, sugar snap peas or whatever.
Around here, they can be planted as early as April, even if the ground is still a little cool and wet, although they will germinate a lot faster if you warm up the soil first with a little clear plastic. Seeds will germinate as long as the soil is above 40 degrees.
My favorite sweet pea can't easily be found any longer. The variety is Carouby de Maussane and I used to buy it from The Cook's Garden many years ago. Suddenly one year, it disappeared from the seed catalog and when I inquired I was told they no longer sold it.
The pods on this variety are huge and sweet. I would pick some right away while the pods were still young and tender, and others I would leave to fill out, although if left too long, the peas inside were starchy and inedible. The pods are best eaten raw in salads or cooked quickly in stir fries as they tend to get mushy if cooked too long. It might seem a bit fussy to grow and harvest, but the peas weren't what attracted me to this variety anyway. It was the flowers. Unlike most standard garden peas, Caroby de Maussane flowers are pale to dark mauve with deep purple centers.
It's nice to know that Caroby is not the only purple-flowering garden peas. 'Dwarf Gray Sugar' is a variety with bi-colored flowers, and Golden Sweet Snow Peas have purple flowers and yellow pods. I haven't tried either variety so I can't comment on their flavor. There also is a variety with not just bi-colored purple flowers but also deep purple pods. While the pods are purple, the peas inside are still green. Varieties I've found are heirloom peas called Blue Capucijner and Capucijner blauschokkers, although I'm sure there are others.
Once you find the variety you like, get your order in because a second crop can be planted here around mid-July. Peas usually need 60 to 70 days to mature and since they don't mind cool weather, we can harvest them right around the time football season gets going.
A great thing about planting peas in the garden is they are a vine and will likely need some sort of vertical apparatus to cling to and climb. Don't complain about the extra work involved. Instead be happy you can grow something up instead of out. Not only does it bring a quaint potager appeal to the garden, vertical set-ups take less space in the garden.
My favorite pea trellises are pruned shrub brush and branches. Branches pruned in April make great pea trellises in May but it's difficult to reuse them because the pea tendrils wind themselves around quite tightly. Rather than deal with getting the tightly twisted vines off the branches, I toss them on the bonfire pile and rig up a new trellis consisting of a post at either end of the row with heavy, uncoated twine strung between them. At the end of the harvest, I save the posts but toss the twine and all on the compost pile and let it decompose with the rest of the garden debris. Easy peasy (excuse the pun).
If you think you don't have room for peas (after all, I'm sure you filled your garden by Memorial Day with everything you intended to grow), think about reusing those empty rows where crops have already been harvested, such as lettuce, spinach or radishes. Try not to plant peas where you previously grew other legumes. Since many insects are crop specific, meaning they will usually only attack one family of plants, if you had legumes in that space less than four years ago, pests and diseases could still be lurking in the soil. Foil pests by planting a different species of vegetable in that spot instead.
Peas aren't the only thing you can keep planting. Second sowings of other fast growing vegetables can extend the harvest even longer. Think about planting more radishes, lettuce and spinach as well. In fact, spinach, if planted early enough for it to get a good hold before the first hard frost, will last through the winter. You could be harvesting crispy green leaves next spring before your neighbors even put a seed in the ground.