The Pleasure of Growing Semi-Leafless Peas: Guest Post by John Miller of The Old School House Plantery…

July 10th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Semi-leafless Peas – Photo ⓒ John Miller of the Old School House Plantery

In this part of New England, peas are a traditional vegetable to serve with July 4th meals, as well as in various summertime bar-b-que and picnic salads. I am sitting here, having just picked my first pod of the year (the pea’s trip to my mouth was delayed only long enough to take the picture), knowing that I will enjoy fresh peas throughout early July. But I have more than that to appreciate. I take advantage of a quite revolution in pea growing that happened over 30 years ago. In the 1970s farmers were finding it increasingly difficult to find enough help to pick peas, one of the most labor intensive crops to harvest by hand. Unfortunately the peas grown at that time were not suited to machine harvesting so a whole new type of pea, but still recognisable as a pea, had to be developed. The end result was the “leafless” pea, although it is more correctly the semi-leafless pea.

The most noticeable characteristic of these peas is that they have very few leaves on them- hence (semi)-leafless. The upper leaves develop as tendrils, a trait that was bred into them from a particular wild type of pea cousin. The result is pods that hang in plain sight, at the top of the plant, making harvest really easy- no moving foliage around to discern green against green! An unintended benefit for me of having the pods so high is that the slugs can’t get to them first!

Pea Pods and Tendrils – Photo ⓒ John Miller of the Old School House Plantery

Because all the pods mature together, another trait required for machine harvesting, I will pick the entire crop in about a ten day period (I tend to get a few pods in the first pick, the vast majority in the second, and then a few stragglers on a third pick). This fits perfectly with my busy life as I won’t be going out over an extended period to pick a few pods each time and the garden space becomes available very quickly. Like most people I imagine I will freeze the bulk of the crop and enjoy them over the coming year.

I stopped growing peas for a while because I found it very difficult to open the pods of the traditional varieties. Broken nails abounded and it was just too time consuming- dexterity and I have never been close acquaintances. With these semi-leafless peas, the pods are just –literally– bursting to be opened -and no more torn finger nails! This trait was acquired from yet another pea cousin- one that is actually a disadvantage in the wild (the plants with this genetic flaw cannot develop mature seed as a result). I would also venture that anyone with an arthritic condition in their hands would find it possible to open these pods. But –there has to be a but– you ask, “What of the flavor?” I certainly like it. I cannot speak for others but if you have ever eaten a frozen pea from the supermarket and liked it, your question is answered…

Flavor to Savor – Photo ⓒ John Miller of the Old School House Plantery

‘Leafless’ Survivor Pea from Burpee – Photo courtesy Burpee

* Direct sow peas again in mid to late summer for a fall crop. Burpee’s ‘Leafless’ Survivor Pea, linked above, matures in just 70 days*

***

Article & Photos this post ⓒ John Miller of the Old School House Plantery
icon

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

Gardener's Supply Company

US - MANTIS® ComposT-Twin -Free Activator - 2010

Shop at SpringHillNursery.com to save $25 on a $50 order!

Growing Great Leeks and Onions the British Way: Guest Post by John Miller of the Old School House Plantery

May 20th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Triple Planted Lincoln Leeks and Savoy Cabbage,(with Garden Fork for Scale)

Triple Planted Onions

It’s the middle of May in New England and winter seems to be finally releasing its grip on the climate! Late last week I was planting onions and leeks and I invited Michaela to stop by as I knew what a leek aficionado she is and I knew she wanted some leek seedlings for her potager. I asked her if she knew about the hill or station planting method of planting leeks. She didn’t, so I promised an explaination. Here it is.

Traditionally, onions were ‘direct’ (sowing where they are to grow, in contrast to seed bed grown and transplanted) sown early in the gardening year, mid-March if possible. The grower then had to patiently wait for the onions to emerge to see what sort of crop he could expect. Patience was necessary as onions can take up to six weeks to germinate in open fields and in that time they were subject to the vagaries of the U.K. weather.  Despite its moist reputation, maintaining constantly damp soil for six weeks in the U.K. can be a problem!

Coincidental with me being in college, plug production, basically plants already growing in small pots such as those sold in six packs, for field crops was just being introduced. Using plugs a farmer could eliminate the wait time between sowing and emergence and start cultivating the crop as soon as the weeds emerged.

Multi-Sown Onion Plugs

Onions, and their cousins leeks, have very poor root systems so that a single seedling couldn’t hold together a plug very well. To overcome this onions, initially, but quickly followed by leeks, were multi-seeded into plugs and then the whole plug was planted out into the field. Initially 1 inch plug cubes were used and sown with five seeds so that the plug wouldn’t disintegrate during handling. I have slightly modified this system to suit my conditions. I use 1 inch round plugs, each 2 inches deep, sown with three seeds and then I plant the whole plug as a hill. The suggested planting density for onions is one plant every 4 inches so I put each hill out 12 inches apart in rows 16 inches apart. I just make a small hole in the soil and drop in a plug. This saves me time, fewer holes to make, and causes far fewer broken fingernails! This system also works really well if you are growing through mulch as you don’t have to tease the mulch apart quite as often.

Growing onions like this doesn’t give you as many big onions (how big is big? Last winter I did have Farmers Market customers asking me for smaller onions as some were too big for their needs) as you can get when they are grown individually. What will surprise most people though is that this system actually increases total yields compared to planting onions individually. Also, you won’t end up with misshapen onions, due to their being grown so close together, as the swelling bulbs push each other apart as they grow whilst still maintaining their shape.

Leek roots are adventitious – poorly branched

Single Leek Seedling Roots

Poorly Branched Onion Seedling Roots

***

John Miller and his wife Diane Miller own and operate The Old School House Plantery in Brattleboro Vermont

Visit the Miller’s Etsy shop, Eclecticasia, for a selection of rare and beautiful plants.

***

Article and photographs this post, © 2009/2010 John Miller

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

Gardener's Supply Company

Shop at SpringHillNursery.com to save $25 on a $50 order!

shopterrain.com

***

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Vegetable gardening tips at The Gardener's Eden.