"Show Perfection" Peas
2nd Jun 1999
Peas are a wonderful sight when well grown. Hanging in clusters on the canes as they are cordon grown, they even make a better sight when displayed on tilted black matt display boards as they use at the Nationals. Unfortunately, the class for peas over the last few years haven't been that plentiful with entries and I think this reflects the difficulty of being able to get quality peas late on in the season.
Over the past few years, the Championships of the National Vegetable Society have been held during September and the majority of the competitors, particularly those growing from the midlands southwards, find it almost impossible to stage a decent set. The problem is that even though "Show Perfection" is undoubtedly a high quality pea, it does tend to grow far better when it is timed for showing between July and late August. From the end of August onwards, the peas are prone to what a lot of growers around my area call "the white blanket" which means that the foliage and pods are covered in Powdery Mildew that sets in very quickly when the conditions are right.
The best display of exhibition peas that I ever saw was at the National Championships many years ago when they were held at Shrewsbury Show. There was over 30 dishes of 15 peas staged in the one class, they were all of a very high standard and must have given the judges a hard time trying to sort out the winner. They were so good that even Geoff Amos came up to me and said that the pea class was the best that he had ever seen. Of course Shrewsbury Show is held during the middle of August, perfect timing to get the best out of the "Show Perfection" pea.
Persevering for Later Shows
However I am still going to persevere and the intention this year is to spray the foliage of the plants on a regular basis with a weak solution of Armillatox at 5,000 to 1. This hopefully will make the plant more resistant to the disease and better capable of producing healthier pods. I shall commence the spraying when the plants are about a metre high and continue spraying every 10 days. The soil was prepared a good three weeks ago with 4 ounces of Chempak BTD and 4 ounces of Calcified seaweed being incorporated into the top layer at the same time; during the winter, carbonate of lime was added at 3 ounces per square metre.
There is no doubt that to get the best peas you have to grow them on the cordon system in exactly the same way as they grow exhibition sweet peas. The method is simple:- the leading shoot is allowed to grow up the cane and tied with soft twine or by using a Max Tapener machine which saves an awful lot of time. As the plant is growing, the tendrils are removed as are all side shoots and within a very short space of time, the growth rate will be increased as will the size and weight of the leading shoot or head. This leading head can be so heavy that, if they are not secured to the cane every other day, they can very easily snap off, spoiling every chance of getting peas from that plant.
Erect a strong wooden "T" structure at each end of the row and if the row is over 6 metres in length an intermediate "T" post will be required as well. Run a strong wire along the outer edges of the "T" piece which then forms the basis of two rows. Use 8ft canes spaced at 9 inches apart along the row pushed into the soil for about three inches and properly secured to the wire. I use the Vee clips for this purpose which are strong and easy to use.
Early on in the year I always start my peas off in pots taking great care that they are never over watered as they can very easily rot away before germinating. However at this time of year, I prefer to sow them directly into the ground. At the base of each cane and about an inch to the side of it, push one pea about an inch deep with a further few extra peas around the last couple of canes( these might come in handy for transplanting should any of the peas by the canes fail to germinate). As soon as they pop through the soil, powder the young shoots with Murphy Derris Dust to prevent any attacks from the Pea and Bean Weevil.