Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sprouting Peas

Peas are my favorite spring vegetable. My parents started me early. When they worked in the garden when I was very young, they taught me how to pick and shell peas. I kept busy, and out of their way, eating fresh peas while they worked. I still love peas, as long as they are fresh and raw.

Unfortunately, my climate is not conducive to growing peas. Sugar snap peas, maybe, but shelling peas just don’t like it here. Spring just isn’t long enough - it gets too hot too fast. Fall is supposedly a better season for peas here, but that means planting them toward the end of summer, and I never seem to have free space in the garden then. So I plant spring peas, and do what I can to cheat. Peas grow just fine in cool, even cold weather. Frosts are no problem. But they sprout better when the soil isn’t frigid. So I sprout them inside, then plant out into the cold in mid-March.

I put some peas on a moist paper towel, cover with another moist paper towel, and put the whole thing in a recloseable plastic bag. Set it on top of the fridge for a week, and they sprout. The trick is in the timing, and here’s where I have trouble.

I did the paper towel thing with the peas on March 1. Then I went off to Phoenix for 5 days. When I got home, the peas were just starting to sprout. Another 2-3 days would do it. Then it rained. Then I was working late. So it was Sunday, March 13 before I had a chance to put them in the ground. Here’s what they looked like after 12 days in their “sprouting chamber”:

Those are some long roots! And the leaves are emerging. I don’t think I’ve planted them with leaves before. I was unsure how deep to plant these. Peas normally go 2 inches down. Would that be a problem to bury the emerging leaves? Should I keep them closer to the surface?

I decided to go with the 2 inches, give or take. Planting seeds is easy: dig a trench, drop in the seeds, cover the trench. But planting sprouted peas is a bit tedious. These must be planted one-at-a-time. I stick in my skinny trowel, move the soil enough so these super-long roots have a place to go, and drop in the peas root side down. Sometimes I dig too far, and the whole pea falls in. Then I have to fish it back out, trying not to break the roots. But all that labor is worth it when I can eat fresh peas in late spring!

I planted three rows (my rows are short, 4-5 feet) this way, then sowed a fourth with unsprouted peas. Just to see if my method really gains my peas some springtime coolness. We’ll see.


  1. I have learned something new. I've never seen this trick before. It makes sense. I'm planning to stick my pea seeds in the ground Saturday.