Thursday, March 24, 2011

Growing vegetables: Peas

Some people may find at times, that growing vegetables and gardening in general is something daunting and complicated by lots of information. Whilst difficult to make sense of for some, for others, gardening comes more natural. We both have encountered gardening throughout our lives and although we had created a flower garden in our previous home, it was while living at La Pasera that we started growing vegetables in a much bigger scale. My advise to people is to get a good book and not to be frightened to experiment, ask a friend for advice and to adapt the information available to the particular conditions your garden presents you in terms of soil structure, sun exposure and amount of rain.

Here at La Pasera, we have heavy clay soil, frost is rare as we live so close to the coast but high humidity and abundant rain fall do present us some challenges. One of them is how to increase the growing season and the range of vegetables we can grow.

Peas are a vegetable that we greatly value in cooking and like to grow as many as we can so that we can eat them fresh as well as preserve in the freezer after blanching. We found that although the heavy soil is slowly improving with the organic matter constantly being added to it, peas used to have a poor germination rate and we had to sow several times in order to get a few plants. The method we now employ works very well for us and the little extra work is well worth it as we guarantee a vary high germination rate a lot faster than using normal methods as described in all gardening books.

We love sharing our ideas and what works with the villagers, some of whom have adopted our methods. There are some local gardening techniques that we have incorporated and adopted to our particular needs with good results such as the use of well rotted farm manure for onion planting but this will have to wait for another blog entry.

To get back to pea growing, La Pasera style, we pre-soak the peas overnight in a bowl of cold tap water and in the morning we cover them with a damp cloth and are kept in a plastic container in a warm place until their tap root starts to show, the longer the root is the more vulnerable this is when it comes to handling the pea but the more you advance its growth. This way, we only use the peas that have germinated. They are planted in half a drain pipe using a mixture of well drained soil we make ourselves with our compost to which we add very well rotted manure, our own leaf mould and  some fine grit or vermiculite.

This process only takes a few days and once you sow the peas, they will take a further week to start showing through the soil. You need to ensure you place the pipe in a warm and protected position while keeping the soil wet at all times. It will be just another two weeks before they are big enough to transplant into their permanent place in the vegetable plot. As we cram in the pipe as many peas as we can get, their roots become entangled and you need to be careful while transplanting to ensure you damage their roots  as little as possible, they should be about two inches tall and will have plenty of vegetative growth. Water them in well and stake with pea sticks when they start developing the tendrils.

This is a very unorthodox or unconventional way of growing peas, most gardening books will not advise you on this method especially with the root damage that you might cause when transplanting but it works extremely well for us, the peas do not seem to mind any of the stages along the way and we certainly advance their growth. If you plant peas in the traditional manner, it may take up to 4 weeks for them to germinate especially if the soil is still a bit cold, but if you grow them La Pasera way, they will be two inches tall by the time you plant them out in about 4 weeks.

We have peas and mange tout currently growing in 3 different stages and the first lot has started blossoming in the past few days. Not bad if I may say so and I look forward to some shelling peas if all goes well.

Beetroots, lamb´s lettuces, raddishes, sweeds and turnips are other vegetables we grow this way. Other advantages from this method is that we can protect the young plants whilst they are at their most vulnerable stage from weather conditions and pests without the use of slug pellets or chemicals. Yes, it is rather fiddly and time consuming but well worth it. Several villagers have adopted and adapted this method. It is always good to share experiences in the garden. Good luck if you try this method.

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