Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Autumn Sowing - Peas

I've started some Autumn sowing and planting - partly because I'm hoping for some early crops next Spring - partly because I'm an impatient gardener ! I want to have something growing over the winter rather than an empty plot.

The peas may or may not come through and survive the Winter - or the mice, rabbits, pigeons, slugs and other pests that infest our allotment site. But I'm going to give them every chance and if not all I've lost is the price of a packet of seeds - I can always re-sow in Spring. I'll also be implementing my usual contingency plan (my background in Project and Risk Management coming in handy) by sowing some extras in peat pots to grow on in our sheltered St Ives back garden.

If you're planning to sow seeds now its important to choose a variety that's specifically suitable for October sowing - some peas should only be sown in Spring. I've chosen Meteor - not for any deep scientific or horticultural reason. Very simply they were on sale in the half price bin at the local garden centre and it says on the packet that they can go in the ground in October. Simples !

Plus - I've never grown this particular variety before. Last year I grew Hurst Greenshaft - with fair results given the shocking weather. It will be interesting to see how Meteor turns out - its a first-early variety and so should yield some early crops from May. Maybe a bit earlier if the Cornish weather is kind to us.

So - here is my step by step guide to Autumn sowing peas:

1. Hoe over the plot and remove as many weeds as you can. Then sift through the soil by hand to pull out any weeds that the the hoe has missed and as many grass / weed roots as possible. I manured this bed a few weeks ago so I didn't need to add any extra fertility. If your bed needs it add some well rotted manure or compost and fork it in.

2. Use the hoe to draw out a drill to the width of the hoe blade and about 2 inches deep. Pick out any more weeds / roots that turn up.

3. Sow the seeds in a double row. The seed packet said to place them 2 inches apart, but I think that's a bit too close so I spaced them out a bit further - around 3 to 4 inches.

4. Label the row with the seed name and the date. If you're anything like me you will forget what you've sown and where within a couple of weeks !

5. Water the drill well then draw the soil back over the seeds. Gently tamp the soil down with the flat of the hoe.

6. Add a good dose of slug pellets. I regard myself as  "green" allotmenter - but in my opinion there is no other way. If you're an organic purist the simply skip this and take your chances with the evil slimy little beasts.

7. An optional but useful addition - place a fleece tunnel over the drill. These are currently half price at my local garden centre - so I decided it was worth the cost.

8. Peg the tunnel down securely, or weight the edges down with some stones or bricks. Secure both ends with the drawstrings provided and weight down with a chunk of paving slab, bricks or similar.

I can now look forward - hopefully - to seeing this lot germinate in a couple of weeks and then grow on. The fleece should provide protection from birds, at least deter the bunny rabbits and maybe even keep the mice out. It will also provide some protection from cold weather whilst also allowing some rainfall through to water the seedlings.

Later on I'll add some pea sticks for the young plants to attach to. Then in Spring I'll remove the tunnel - maybe opening it up in stages first to allow the plants to acclimatise. I'll then hammer in a few posts and rig up some pea netting - for the plants to grow up and also to keep the birds out. Hopefully the subject of a future post - assuming that the peas and the rest of us survive the hard winter that I'm pretty sure is coming !

I hope this helps and maybe inspires you to get some seeds in this Autumn. I make no claims whatsoever to being any sort of "expert". What I do is based on a combination of my own experience, common sense, gut instinct, possibly blind ignorance and sometimes ... just hope!

Any comments or further suggestions are very welcome. I'll keep you updated with progress on my little allotment on the North Cornwall coast.

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