Recently I joined a farm tour organized by the Ontario Farm Animal Council. I met the group at Lennox Farm in Dufferin County near Shelburne, Ontario. Bill French, a 5th generation farmer who grows rhubarb and peas, owns it.
Growing 75 to 80 acres of peas a year has given Bill plenty of opportunity to refine his technique. Although my own pea growing efforts are progressing nicely, I wish I’d had the benefit of Bill’s tips earlier in the season. Had I known then what I know now, I would have done quite a few things differently.
Here are Bill’s recco’s for growing peas:
1. Since peas are prone to powdery mildew, plant them in rows that run north and south so that each plant has maximum opportunity for the sun to burn off the dew.
2. Bill also recommends creating raised beds so that rain doesn’t collect around the stems and roots.
3. Fertilize the seedlings with a molasses mixture to raise their brix level. This will make the plants more resistant to disease and the peas will taste sweeter, too.
4. Stagger planting so that you have peas throughout the season. In a farm setting, this means planting a new row every other day for as long as the farmer hopes there are 71 days left in the pea-growing season. In a home garden, you can plant one row and then the next week another and extend your yield time that way.
5. Pick and chill mature peas promptly. On the farm, Bill’s pickers bring peas from the field to the cold storage barn every one and a half hours to preserve the sweet, fresh flavour.