(That’s probably also why I’ve been very slow to get on the flower bandwagon. What good are flowers? They don’t feed you. I laugh because my mom – who has had a reputation for the most beautiful flowers in the neighborhood in every neighborhood she has ever lived – will get so fed up with the weeds in my flower bed that she’ll come pick my weeds for me. I tell her, if my time is limited, I’m spending it on my vegetables because they actually give me something of value. Truthfully, though, I’ve grown to appreciate flowers recently so I’m not that bad anymore – and actually purchased a few hanging plants this year! – but you get the idea.)
So when it comes time to plan my garden in the cold winter January days, I plan for practicality. Last year I felt very accomplished as I grew enough green beans, black-eyed peas, okra, peppers, basil, blueberries, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, rosemary, dill, oregano, and tomatoes (for spaghetti sauce and stewed tomatoes) to last all year. I didn’t purchase any of those vegetables, fruits, or herbs from the grocery store all year! In addition, I grew enough potatoes to last half of the year.
This year I wanted to expand on my self-preservation ways by growing more peas. Peas are a fussy crop in central Arkansas. We tend to go from winter to HOT within just a few weeks, leaving a very small window for the freeze-sensitive yet heat intolerant peas. Last year I only grew enough shelling peas to make about a 1/2 cup. Not exaggerating.
But I was determined not to give up. I spoke to the man at the White Harvest Seed Company booth at the Arkansas Flower and Garden show, who recommended the heirloom pea variety called Green Arrow. (I knew my superhero loving son and daughter would love that.)
I planted three double rows about 8 feet long each in one of the most well-draining areas of my garden. (Good thing, considering many of my crops suffered tremendously with our uncharacteristically rainy spring.) I had amended the area with compost and was pleased when the seeds germinated quickly. They grew well but only reached about half the height of the trellis I had created. (I created the trellis from instructions I found on this site.)
When they started producing, they produced all at once, making it easy to harvest the entire crop in two pickings.
I have to share–the peas were ready to harvest in the week after my back surgery so I asked Drew to come help me so I wouldn’t have to bend over unnecessarily. He was such a big help and we had such a sweet, memorable time. I will never forget it.
We didn’t eat any of the shelling peas fresh since we’re canned pea fans anyway. (My husband is a LeSueur pea snob so I knew I had my work cut out for me to create a satisfactory product.) Out of the peas we picked and shelled I was able to can about 4 pints. Admittedly, I was disappointed that I didn’t get more, but now I know how much more I need to plant next year. And canning peas is as easy as canning green beans. I’ll do that any day.
The big test was the first jar we opened. I was very pleased with the flavor, as was Matt. Score! More peas will be in store next year! And the best part is I was able to pull them the first of June, which enabled a succession crop to go afterward.
I also allowed a few pods to dry on vine. Then I shelled them and saved them for next year’s planting: FREE peas please! (Remember, you can only save seeds this way if the seeds are heirloom, not hybrid, seeds!)
I’d say another garden lesson is in the books for me. Next year’s pea goal: to produce enough for the entire year!
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