Tuesday 15 March 2011

Sowing Peas and Beans

I feel as if I have REALLY made a start on sowing now - I have sown my peas and Broad Beans.

I hate to see my raised beds sitting empty, but I know that sowing seeds too early is a waste of time, so I have just had to be patient. Saturday was a nice fine day for us, and I finally deemed the soil to be "workable"  - i.e. reasonably warm and dry enough to crumble and not form soggy lumps when raked - so I decided to sow my peas and Broad Beans.

First task was to prepare the soil. I raked it over, breaking down the lumps and removing all the bigger pieces of twig deposited during the compost-distribution the other day, and then levelled it down, creating what gardeners call "a fine tilth" of small soil crumbs. Much of this work had already been done for me by the Blackbirds scratching around in the new compost looking for insects. A useful aid here is a garden sieve or "riddle". Mine is made of sturdy plastic, and has holes about 1cm square.

I then erected the support system for my peas. I use this every year, but since I employ a crop-rotation system, the pea-supports have to be erected in a different bed each year. I put in two hardwood stakes about 1.8 metres / 6 feet tall, hammering them in with a 4lb club hammer so that they are really secure. I then stretch between the two posts a piece of chicken-wire, and secure this to the posts with several lengths of wire garden-tie. The final step is to put in three bamboo canes, woven into the chicken-wire and then pushed a few inches into the soil surface. This gives the structure added rigidity. This is what the finished article looks like:-

So, with the support sytem in place I moved on to sowing the peas. I "took out a shallow drill", along the line of the chicken-wire, using my onion-hoe. In other words I made a little trench, about two inches deep and about 4 inches wide. Into this I placed the peas. I do this by hand, placing the peas individually. In a bigger garden this would be impractical and very time-consuming, but in my little plot it is a 5-minute job! I sowed a short length (60cm) of each of four types of pea: Misty, Ambassador, Early Onward, and Kelvedon Wonder. They are all early varieties, because I will want to plant other things in this bed later in the season so I don't go for successional sowing, but I'm hoping they will mature a few days apart.

I always sow my peas much more thickly than is normally recommended. I would say that in each 60cm section there would be about 50 peas! I know from experience that they won't all survive. Some will not germinate; some will be eaten by mice; some will be dug-up by the blessed Blackbirds, but enough will survive to give me a viable crop. Having placed the peas in the trench it is simply a matter of carefully covering them over with soil and watering them in.

After sowing the peas I sowed two rows of Broad Beans, each one a different variety. This year I have Jubilee Hysor and Imperial Green Longpod. I like to grow more than one variety of each veg because it increases the chances of getting a good crop. One variety may succeed in a year when another variety fails.
My method for sowing the Broad Beans is really simple. Since the seeds are so big, all I do is lay them in a line on the surface of the ground and then push them into the soil with my finger. In each of my rows I sowed 24 beans - i.e. at a spacing of 10cm. I also sowed a couple of extra ones at the end of each row as spares to replace any casualties.

In between the rows of peas and beans I sowed three rows of radishes, which will grow much more rapidly than the legumes and will give me a bonus crop from the same piece of ground. [This is called "catch-cropping" in case you didn't know...]

Final task: protection. Regular readers of my blog will be well aware that I have lots of problems with foxes, so I have covered my newly-sown bed with another large piece of chicken-wire, held in place with some sticks. This will remain in place until the peas and beans are well established. It doesn't look pretty, but it will hopefully have the desired effect!

I also prepared one final set of defences: I laid a line of sticks (more prunings from the Philadelphus tree) flat on the surface of the soil, along the line of the wire, where I have sown one of the rows of radishes. This is intended to make it difficult for the Blackbirds to root around in the soil. I know it won't be 100% effective, but it's better than nothing I suppose!

Notice that I also (roughly) swept the paths! How long they will remain this neat is a moot point...


  1. Your seeding season has started at last!
    Your system with chicken wire is good for long vines of peas, I believe. The vines will grown on the wire and that allows you to harvest peas easily.

  2. Dave, the six beds are each 1 metre x 2.4 metres, and the paths are 40cm wide (width of the cheapo paving slabs from the DIY store). You can see why I grow a fair bit in pots and containers!

  3. I really like your pea set-up. I won't be planting any peas here for about a week or so. Do you plant peas on both sides of the fencing or just one?

  4. Robin, I sow the peas directly underneath the chicken-wire, so some of them grow up each side.

  5. Looking good, great start on things. Hope the pests stay away. We're supposed to get quite a bad frost tonight. P.S. I still think a scarecrow would be good in your garden.

  6. I've been thinking about making a similar support system when sowing my own peas, and having seen yours I'm now DEFINITELY going to make it this way. My beds are narrower, so I probably will only have room for one row of beans next to the peas, though.

    No doubt everything will be eaten by birds, deer and slugs anyway, but so be it. ;-)

  7. Oh my! Fort Knox has nothing on you! It is so exciting that Spring is spinging! I am looking forward to following the evolution of the garden.

  8. Our broad beans will shortly start life in pots

  9. Great pea set up! Love the sieving of the soil too. Your vegies love you! Do foxes come in and eat your seeds??

  10. Like the pea support system. I only have dwarf peas at the moment, and have started them off in pots, same with the broad beans, but when I get a chance I can plant the first of the broad beans out. Good luck keeping the fox and other pests at bay. Love the "heir and spare" idea of sowing extra at the end of the row, will pinch that!

  11. By the time the peas and beans start to grow and climb those fences you won't even see the fences anymore. It is also pea sowing time here.

  12. Interesting that the foxes are a danger to your bean and pea seedlings. Thankfully ours have never shown an interest. Although last year, I did have REAL issues with mice. Every morning, I would find the small plants up rooted, without the bean seed.Took me a while to figure out what was causing it, kept thinking it was pigeons. I gave up seeding direct, and only plant out when they are pretty established.

  13. Just to clarify the business of the foxes and the peas folks... The foxes don't eat the peas (as far as I know!), but they do root around in the soil of the raised beds, thereby uprooting plants, seedlings, seeds, fleece, - anything that happens to be in the way. I think they are hunting for worms (and you know I have a lot of those in my garden!)

  14. Oh, you plant the peas under the structure. That's engineering Mark, I never would have thought of that. I think, if you don't mind, I would like to copy this structure, it's pea time for us here too. Hee hee, and if you do mind, I feel quite safe over here :D!



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