The Pea, Pisum sativum, is the great vegetable delicacy of the garden, and it is small wonder that so much interest is manifested in its culture. The various points of management seem to possess an inexhaustible attraction for the kitchen gardener, and probably the Pea is fated to remain a topic of discussion until the end of time.
Fig. 62. Raising Peas In Pots And Boxes.
A, raising in pots: a, crock ; b, rough soil; e, finer soil; d, seeds; e, covering; f, space for water; g, ball when ready for planting out; h, young plants.
B, raising in boxes: i, box; j, seeds; k, l, ends, the latter to be removed when the plants, m, n, are ready.
I have already discussed the question of soils and manures, and the bearing which climate has upon success. I may now give attention to a few other matters.
In the first place, let me say a word on the question of expediting that early picking which we all set so much store by. It is, of course, largely a question of conveniences, but still more of natural advantages. Do what they will, I am afraid that those persons who have no comfortable, well-protected borders, but whose quarters are exposed to the cold winds of spring, will not succeed in getting Peas so early as others who are more favourably situated.
By sowing Peas in boxes in January or February, starting them in vineries, Peach houses, or greenhouses, hardening them in a frame, and planting them out in March or April, a gain can be effected.
An outdoor sowing can be hurried along to some degree by laying some short, crumbly, well-decayed manure, mixed with wood ashes, in the trenches; but my experience with the Pea is that in the main it likes to take its own time, and means to do it. It will not start freely in a very dry soil, but, on the other hand, neither will it in a very wet one. There is, however, this consolation - the row that is the most deliberate in establishing itself often gives the best crop.
Fig. 63. A Simple Box For Raising Peas.
The period of outdoor sowing is a long one, but it is not the general custom nowadays to extend it so much as was once the case, except in the very large establishments. Thus, autumn sowing is probably less common than it used to be. There is never a certainty that it is going to give a gain, because the weather cannot be forecasted. Sometimes it does, sometimes it does not. A span of February to June, making the latest sowings of early varieties, sums up most people's practice.
I should like to utter an emphatic warning against shallow sowing. It is common to inveigh against thick seeding, but depth is left out of account. It ought not to be. People sometimes find their young Peas lying on the surface of the soil, and straightway breathe anathemas against the birds, the mice, the worms, and, broadly speaking, all animate creation except themselves. Now, Peas sown very shallow will often force themselves out of the soil in the process of swelling and germinating. Three inches is not a fraction too deep.
It may be interesting to dwell for a moment on the time required for a crop to be fit to gather from the sowing. I have given what I consider fair averages in a preceding table, but of course instances are on record of much quicker work than is there recorded. Thus, I am acquainted with one grower whose invariable practice it is to sow Ne Plus Ultra just eight weeks before the day on which he wants to show it. I think, however, that the case must be regarded as exceptional, although it may not be unique.
It is easy, by cultural means, to greatly increase the size of Pea pods. The first step is to pinch out the growing tips of the plants, and the time for this is when they are coming into bloom, though it might be done a little before; or, on the other hand, just after the pods have formed. The second is to thin the pods. The third is to feed with liquid manure.
It is a safe rule to have the rows the same distance apart as the plants grow high, but as some seedsmen are a little inclined to understate the height of their Peas, it is wise to allow an extra foot. Thus, rows of a variety said to be 4 feet high might be 5 feet apart. It is best, in theory, to have the rows running north and south, although if plenty of room is given this is not vital.
Fig. 64. A Substitute For Pea Sticks.
Boards are placed at every 6 yards length of row, nails driven into each edge, and thatching cord is attached.
Speaking of varieties, one is torn by conflicting emotions when one reads of the meagre list of a century ago. Our forefathers had none of the splendid varieties which we now enjoy, and so far they are to be pitied, but we must set against this the fact that they were saved the distraction of reading descriptions of some hundred or more sorts, all of which are spoken of as indispensables.
It has been my happy fate to grow many hundred varieties of garden Peas, and so full of interest is the trial system that I suppose I shall go on to the end of the chapter. In looking backward, I am able to realise what a great advance has been made. So good are the best of our modern Peas that it is difficult to see that much further improvement is possible. After a dip into past and present trial books, I have ventured to make some short lists of the varieties which have done best.
(1) Dwarf Earlies.
(2) Dwarf Earlies. slightly later.
(3) Dwarf Earlies. later still.
Fig. 65. Another Substitute For Pea Sticks.
Six feet quartering is used, to which cross pieces are attached 9 inches apart. Tarred twine is then stretched along.
(4) Medium Height (3 to 4 feet) Earlies.
Suttons' A 1
William the First
(5) Round White Earlies, medium height.
(6) Medium Height Earlies, slightly later than sections 4 and 5.
Carters' Early Mom, Suttons' Early Giant Laxtons' Gradus
Note.-If I had to choose three varieties from the above six sections, to give pods in June, I should choose Chelsea Gem, Daisy, and Early Giant.
(7) Dwarf to Medium Second Earlies.
These will yield heavily towards the end of June and the early half of July. Choose Peerless if one is wanted.
(8) Tall Early Maincrops (5 to 6 feet).
Duke of Albany
These will be at their best from mid - July onwards. Choose Duke of Albany for one.
(9) Tall Later Maincrops.
These will be in their prune towards the end of July and the early half of August.
(10) Latest Crops.
Ne Plus Ultra
These will be in season from mid-August onwards, according to the weather. Select Autocrat for one.