Heirloom pea seeds combine two features of great value. They are not only very nutritious and rich in Vitamins A, B, and C, but also provides many advantages of green vegetable. Peas are an easy crop to grow when the conditions are right, and are delicious when freshly picked. Tall varieties produce long vines and are best supported on a trellis system. Bush types are best for gardens that have limited space, and typically need no support.
Raising Heirloom Peas from Seed
Almost no garden crop is as easy to start as peas. Heirloom pea seeds should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. You need not wait for the last erratic frost. Choose a time approximating the average day when the last frost in your region may be expected. Plant on that day or even a little before it. Planted pea seeds are not injured by the surface soil being touched by frost, and the earliest possible planting date is always the best. Sowing heirloom pea seeds should be among the first spring activities in the vegetable garden.
Care While Growing Heirloom Pea Seeds
All heirloom pea seeds are better if they have sticks to grow up. Any fine branches with some twigs left on them are an economical trellis system. Hazel trimmings make ideal pea sticks. If you just cannot get stick suitable for pea sticks than you should use wire netting. Get the coarsest netting you can find (because it is the cheapest), take an appropriate length, and make an inverted “V” so that a row of peas climbs up both sides. This method has the advantage that the peas hang down inside the wire where the birds cannot get them. Peas do not like drought, and watering in dry weather always pays in more peas, but remember that soil rich in humus retains water more efficiently.
Soil and Climate
Any good garden soil will grow heirloom pea seeds. If the soil you plan to plant your peas has been manured the autumn previous, that will be a help. Fresh manure is particularly dangerous to peas. It is essential that only well rotted be used when planting peas. As for climate, heirloom pea seeds are not a tropical crop and will grow well in cool climates, with plenty of moisture, but too much rain when they are ripening will give them mildew.
Harvesting and Storing
Repeated pickings, taking only the plump lower pods from the plant will give the best yield. You can do a better job of picking if the peas are grown on a trellis. Harvest peas in the cool of the morning rather than in the heat of the afternoon. Shell and rinse the peas in cool water as soon as possible and refrigerate for later use. For storage: wait until the peas are thoroughly ripe, until they are as hard as bullets; then pull the vines and let them dry in the wind out of the rain. When the have totally dried thresh the heirloom pea seeds from the vines. Put the peas away, quite dry, in covered containers When you want some in the winter soak them in water for a day or two. Then boil them with salt until they are soft, boiled peas on a cold winter night makes for a special treat.
Pests and Diseases
Pea and bean weevil: This creature is the color of soil, falls off the plant and plays dead when you disturb it, and is nocturnal; it hides under clods of dirt during the day. Dusting the plants with lime, while the dew is on them, is usually an effective deterrent.
Mildew: In very damp weather pea leaves and pods may go white with mildew, and then rot. Using tall pea sticks, so the vines can climb high helps to prevent this. Do not water the foliage of peas in hot muggy weather. For the most part there is not much you can do once mildew has set in; for the most part it is usually not disastrous.
Heirloom Pea Varieties
Alaska - This heirloom variety dates back to the 1880s and is reportedly the earliest of all. The plants are 24 to 36 inches tall and grow well in cool soils. There are typically 5 to 8 smooth peas in each round pod. Classically used for canning or freezing.