White Powdery Mildew and Peas
20th Apr 2000
I was fortunate enough to be able to harvest some good peas last year that I was able to stage at some of the earlier shows during August.
White Powdery Mildew
Over the past few years I haven't been able to show any, mainly because they had matured too early or they had fallen foul of the disease, white powdery mildew. This is a heartbreaking disease and one that's very difficult to control once it starts on the plant. It seems to be worse from the Midlands southwards and growers in Scotland seem to have it much later in the season.
In my garden, it usually appears towards the end of August and is associated with the weather conditions at that time. Dry warm days from the middle of August seem to start it off and it manifests itself by appearing first on the foliage and eventually on the pods. You can spray with Carbendasim at the first sign which should help but from my experience, once it shows up on the plant, it is almost impossible to prevent it spreading. You might think that you can remove this powdery mildew from each pea pod with a soft cloth, but you will find that the disease has already taken hold and the pod has been marked. The other problem is that if you do remove the white mildew, at the same time,you are destroying the bloom onthe pod which is looked on favourably by judges as a sign of freshness.
This year the Welsh Championships are held on 19th and 20th August so I am anticipating, for the first time in a few years, a really well contested class of peas. When they are well grown and displayed to best effect on a slightly tilting matt black board, they really do look impressive. The pea boards are supplied at the Welsh Championships which is an excellent idea as every competitor starts off on a level playing field.
I shall be sowing mine early next week and they should provide me with enough peas for my trade stand at Southport Flower show a few days prior to the Welsh Championship. The best variety for exhibition is without doubt a good selection of Show Perfection which has been around for many years and is officially classed as a second early. The pods are dark green and can be around 8inches long and over an inch wide when well grown with the added benefit that they taste delicious.
You have two options when sowing; either direct in the ground or in pots or cells. If you sow direct into the ground, do make sure that you sow a few extra seed at the end of the row just in case you need them for transplanting should any in the row fail. If you are sowing indoors, use a multi cell unit such as plantpak 24's and sow two peas in each cell using Levington M2 compost. Give them a good watering and then be very careful before you water again; as peas of this variety are wrinkled, they can easily rot prior to germination should the compost be permanently waterlogged. I usually leave mine in the shade such as under the bench and usually I don"t have to water again until they have popped through the soil.
To get the very best peas there is no doubt that the plants' energies and vigour need to be targeted towards the production of long dark green unblemished pods. The best way of doing this is to grow them by the 'cordon' system which is regularly used by sweet pea growers so that they can have the best flowers for exhibition. The method involves the planting or sowing of one pea against each cane of a series of 8 foot tall canes which are set in a straight row. The leading shoot of each pea is then tied to the cane at every leaf axis and all side shoots are removed as are the tendrils. Prior to erecting any canes, the soil needs to be thoroughly worked over and preferably some well rotted manure should have been worked into the soil late last autumn. If you haven't done that already, then rotovate in some soil conditioner such as 6X and it will certainly be beneficial. Do make sure though that the pH of your soil is right and a pH of 7 is certainly not too high for peas. In order to be able to grow the peas up the canes, a structure has to be erected so that each and every cane can be safely attached to it. There is nothing more depressing than an excellent row of peas collapsing because a wire has snapped and the plants are left battered and marked.
I usually have two rows of peas with 25 plants per row and to support the 50 canes, I have three stout poles made from 3inch by 2inch wood about 6 feet tall with an 18inch cross piece along the top to form a 'T'. At the end of each ‘T' piece, a small hole is drilled so that I can run a strong plastic coated wire through it. I use one pole at the end of each row and one in the middle and I make sure that they are driven well into the ground and that the two end posts in particular are firm. I run the wires along, making sure that both wires have the same tension applied to them and the canes are then tied up to the wire at around nine inches apart.
I will explain how to look after them later on in the season.