Peas and First Planting of Celery
27th Jun 2002
My first planting of celery took a long time to get established this year and I put this down to the fact that I planted it a little too early. At the time of course the weather was the best that I have seen for many a year with the soil being moist and warm. The picture however soon changed as the temperatures dropped quite a lot and strong gale force winds played havoc with anything that stuck it's ahead above ground level.
The garden however is all planted up now with peas being the last item to go in this past week.
Apart from keeping an eye out for the flea beetle which can be a bit of a nuisance more than a disaster with peas at the early stage, they are relatively trouble free. The first signs of the beetles presence are the outside edges of the leaves looking like the teeth of a saw where the beetle has been munching away. Once the plant grows away it is rarely a problem after and causes no serious or permanent damage to the plant. Peas for the show benches are better grown on the cordon system where the main shoot of the plant is tied up a tall cane. I use 8 foot canes pushed into the ground about 6 inches and the tops of the canes are tied to strong wire using a Vee clip. This height of cane is a must if you are growing the only variety that has been winning on the show benches for longer than I have been growing. The variety is Show Perfection, a pea which when well grown can produce pods well in excess of six inches in length and regularly has 11 peas per pod with sometimes 12 and even the occasional 13.
When growing on the cordon system the idea is to divert as much of the plants energies towards producing a few of these beautiful dark green long pods at the expense of a large quantity of smaller ones. This is done by removing all side shoots as they appear as well as all the tendrils which are there to help support the plant as it grows upwards. With the tendrils being removed it naturally follows that the plant is then incapable of supporting itself so it means that each plant has to be tied on a regular basis to the cane. By regular I mean at least twice week and sometimes every other day as the plant gallops upwards. Failure to tie the plant regularly will certainly end in disaster as, during peak growth, the leading shoot or head of the plant can be quite large and heavy and a strong gust of wind will easily snap it off.
Any head that has been snapped off will destroy all chances of exhibiting peas for that season although the plant will probably throw out a side shoot or two, however these will take a long time to develop. If however you have sown you peas far too early and the pods are being produced weeks before time, then removing the leading head or shoot can be an option and utilising a side shoot instead to delay the growth pattern. Once the peas reach around a metre in height they will start to show the flower head and though removal of side shoots and tendrils is still vital, do make sure that the flower heads are kept intact.
The only alternative to this is if they are flowering too early, in that case the production of pods can be controlled by the removal of the first batch of flowers. I usually leave my first flowers on a month before the show date, the next set of flowers will then be watched carefully. If the second batch of flowers are in full bloom about three weeks before the show, then the first batch or the lowest set of flowers can then be removed. It usually takes between 21 and 25 days from full flower to a full showable pod. In my case last year, even though I had delayed sowing until 90 days back from the show date, I had to regularly remove flowers until the peas were right at the top of the canes.
This year I have delayed sowing even further, the sowing date was the 8th of June which is 78 days before I will hopefully be harvesting them for the Welsh Championships at Margam Park on the Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday 25th and 26th August. This is a very short harvest period indeed and I can only do this because Anglesey is conveniently positioned on the gulf stream and growth rate during July and August can be phenomenal. I could of course be caught out if we have a really cold or wet Summer, but that is a chance I am prepared to take. Showing peas after this date is a huge problem for me as, nearly every year towards the end of August, the peas start to be affected by powdery mildew and to date, I really know of nothing that the amateur can use effectively to control it.
If we do have a hot July and August do make sure that the peas are given plenty of water on a regular basis and once the peas have set five lots of flowers per plant the leading shoot can then be stopped. This means that with no side shoots or tendrils and no further leading growth to take up the plants food sources, the developing peas should be quite large and full of plump juicy peas.