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Plan now for a fall pea crop

Peas grow well in spring or fall
Peas grow well in spring or fall
R. MacGregor

Northern New Jersey gardeners and other folks in Zone 6 have recently reaped a bumper crop of peas. Depending on the variety they may have another week or so to enjoy their crop. But, what about the remainder of the year? Is it already time to march back to the produce aisle in the local supermarket?

No, not at all. Peas, as it turns out to almost everyone's delight are as fine a producing crop, if not even more prolific, in fall as they are in the spring.

Determining when to plant is as easy as steaming fresh peas. Reading the information on a packet of Green Arrow peas – available at Livingston Seed and other vendors as well – reveals a maturation date of 68 to 75 days. This means that allowing 5 days for germination and using the longer maturation date to be safe, sowing should take place about 80 days prior to the first likely frost date.

October 5th is a good rule of thumb date for a first possible frost in Zone 6. Counting back we find that July 15 is just about an ideal sowing date.

If this timeline is coming at you a little too fast, there are other peas with shorter maturation dates, some as little as 60 days which allows the more sedate gardener a full month to purchase his seed and plan his plot.

Don't forget the essential requirements for planting peas - Pisum sativum to botanists - any time of year, spring or fall. Peas will require well drained fertile soil, but they will almost never require fertilizer. As nitrogen fixing plants peas are well adapted to work with the nutrients present in any naturally fertile soil. Compost is always a good and usually the only required soil amendment.

Full sun is necessary as is regular watering. Trellising is also beneficial, keeping the vines out of ground contact and thereby minimizing the likelihood of disease or insect damage. Utilizing the garden fence as a trellis works very well indeed, and brings the tender vines up into the sunlight and air where they can grow best.

Happy second crop!

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