What could be more lovely than fresh sweet peas from your own garden. In our house they never make it to the kitchen, just eaten fresh straight from the plant. Whats more they keep giving, keep picking and the plant keeps producing. Peas and beans are some of the most productive plants to grow in a vegetable garden
Peas and beans are in the same plant family ‘leguminosae’. They like the same growing conditions, best in a sunny spot, well-drained soil, and a soil pH 6.0-7.5. They need a humus rich soil (organic mater such as compost, muck, leaf litter) to retain moisture, otherwise the pods won’t swell. They are deep rooted, so if growing in a pot, give them depth. Many heritage varieties have coloured flowers making them suitable for the ornamental garden. Legumes are nitrogen fixers (they have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria) this means they can make their own nitrogen when the soil is deficient (Nitrogen is needed for plant growth, particularly leafy growth). They are easy to grow and have few pests and diseases to worry about. Although you will need to protect your seeds from mice. You can sow seeds direct, but you may have more success starting them of in pots so you can protect them.
There are different types of peas, hardy ones for over winter growing or sowing late February. Then lots of different summer varieties. Short or tall growing varieties, fat peas or small petit pois. Podding peas, mangetout and sugar snap. Chose varieties to suit your planting time and taste.
Lots of different types of beans, but many are tender. This means waiting until we are frost free before planting out. For early growing Broad Beans are your only option, these can be sown in October and over wintered for a crop at the end of May the following year. Alternatively sow mid February for a crop in June, or March for a July crop. Broad beans don’t need any support. Plant them 20cm apart each way in a double row and they will support each other.
Once we get into warmer weather (past the risk of frost) you can sow French or Runner beans. Climbing varieties will need strong support, bamboo canes tied together as a tepee works well. Alternatively you could try a live support such as a tree or shrub. Or you may have heard of traditional ‘three sisters’ companion planting method, beans are planted next to sweet corn and grow up the strong corn stems, while squash are grown underneath to suppress weeds and keep the roots moist. This works best in warmer climates then the UK, here in Wales we don’t have the long warm summers that are needed to get the sweet corn growing strong and too many cloudy days for the squash to cope with the shade of the other plants.
Dwarf French beans don’t need support and will produce beans quicker, but run out of steam quicker, so its worth sowing a couple of time during the season.