Consider growing Southern peas as late summer crop

Get it Growing with Kenny Sharpe

Get it Growing with Kenny Sharpe

Wet weather has taken its toll on spring vegetables. Plants do not like the extreme wet conditions or sun popping out with standing water around them. However, while spring gardens are the most popular because of more moderate temperatures, there are plenty of opportunities to grow crops throughout the summer and beyond.
One of my favorite crops to grow in the summer is southern peas. You may call them black eyed peas, purple hull peas, creamer peas or crowder peas. Those are all types of southern peas, and they thrive in hot weather.
Peas not only make a great crop to eat but they are good for your garden soil although many people will plant peas just so they can plow pea vines back into the soil to increase organic matter, tilth of the soil and add nitrogen. This has long been a practice in the strawberry industry but farmers will usually go in and Pick a few bushels of mature peas before chopping the foliage back into the soil. Another advantage of peas is that they are relatively easy to freeze so they can be enjoyed later in the winter when vegetables are in short supply.
You can plant peas from March until August. After August you will run up against frost, as the crop takes about 60-70 days from planting to harvest.
If you planted a spring garden I would not fertilize peas, and if you did not, fertilize sparingly. Excessive fertilizer will produce a lot of vines and not many peas and will even cause non-vining varieties of peas to produce vines.
When planting in rows put seed out every 4 to 6 inches within the row or thin to that spacing. This will require about 4-6 ounces of seed per 100 feet of row.
As I mentioned there are 4 types of peas, but some peas actually fall into more than one category. There are several crowder pea varieties that have purple hulls. There also will be non-vining and vining growth patterns in each type.
Purple hull peas are very popular in our part of the country. I always liked to Pick those best as a child because I could tell when they were ready for harvest since purple hulls are usually ready to Pick when the pods turn purple. Vining purple hull varieties to plant would include Pinkeye Purple Hull and Mississippi Pinkeye Purple Hull. Non-vining varieties would include Texas Pinkeye, Quick Pick and Top Pick Pinkeye.
Crowder peas run a close second. They are called crowders because the peas are crowded into the pods so tightly that the peas cause indentations in each other. Recommended varieties of vining crowders would include Mississippi Purple, Mississippi Silver, Mississippi Shipper and Dixie Lee. A non-vining crowder would be Top Pick Crowder.
Black eye peas are something I associate with a New Year’s tradition. Their characteristic dark-eye is what sets this pea type apart. Recommended varieties of black eye peas include Magnolia Black Eye and Queen Ann. Both are non-vining.
Cream peas are the last type. These peas have light green or white seeds that do not turn dark when cooked and the pot liquor comes out clear. Top Pick Cream and Elite are both non-vining choices, and Zipper Creamer is a recommended vining variety.
In all of these varieties that say Top Pick, the peas are produced at the top of the plant and are designed for mechanical harvest but they are very easy to pick.
If you want to just plant peas as a green manure crop to improve the soil, cut the vines when the blooms start to appear but I would wait and Pick at least a few peas first.

Kenny Sharpe is the LSUAgCenter county agent for Livingston Parish. For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

This and all other columns and articles in The Journal, including archives of past issues, are available online at livingstonbusiness.com and thebusinessjournal-LA.com.