Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sprouting Peas in August

This is a week of great anticipation as its time to get my fall peas sown.  I decided that I would pre-sprout the peas.  This time of year it really isn't necessary but it does serve a good purpose if one does pre-sprout the will show you the most vigorous plants when you see them begin to shoot out that first root.  Its not the leaves that sprout out first but the root.  (There has to be an object lesson in that picture somewhere but I'll leave it for a later post.)

At my house my husband prefers snow peas and I prefer the sugar snap peas.  Snow peas are the flat podded peas often used in stir fry and must be harvested before they get peas in them for the best flavor.  Sugar snap peas are best after the peas have gotten some size on them and are quite juicy and sweet.  A wonderful snack in the garden and kids usually love them because they are so sweet and juicy.

What you will need:
  • Pea seeds
  • Small cookie sheet/jellyroll pan or tray (with sides on it is best so if any peas decide to try to escape they won't roll off onto the floor.)
  • Small bowl or drinking glass
  • Warm water
  • Plastic wrap
  • Paper towels
  • Water proof marking pen (ball point pen would work fine too)
  • Plant tag (Get this done now so you can mark what you planted where...its often too easy to forget otherwise)
  • Warm spot like the top of a refrigerator (but not hot)
The very first thing I do is to set up the pan where the seeds will be laid out once they are done soaking.

Take the tray or pan you are using and line it with a paper towel. The more seed you are going to sow the bigger the pan/tray will need to be so keep that in mind.  I suppose you could us a cardboard box with low sides like the ones canned food or pop come in but you would have to line the bottom with plastic wrap so it doesn't get all soggy.  Whatever you use it needs to be sturdy enough to carry out to the garden once the seeds have sprouted.  I also recommend lining aluminum pans with plastic as the aluminum will react to being wet for extended periods of time.

How I set my aluminum baking sheet up.
So you have your paper towel in the bottom of your flat container.  Label the dry paper towel with the name of what it is you are sprouting.  Since I was doing two types of peas I drew a line down the center and labeled each side accordingly so later.  You will also notice I set the glasses for each variety on its respective side of the pan to avoid getting them mixed up.  This really comes in handy if you are doing a few different varieties of peas such as I often do with my flowering sweetpeas and do not want the colors all jumbled. That way later on you can plant them out with their specific color in mind instead of have a mixed bag of bloom colors.

Hard as rocks pea seeds just put into their water bath for soaking.
After 8 hours of soaking no more wrinkles and nicely round.
Figure out how many seeds you will need to sow and count them out into the container you will be soaking them in.  It is recommended that you add a couple extra just in case some are not viable.  Cover them with warm water to about 1" above the seeds.  This is important because the seeds will swell quite a bit and you want them to stay beneath the water surface.  Set them off to the side away from direct sunlight for about 6 to 8 hours which is about how long it takes to get them fully loaded with the water that they need for sprouting. Warm is better than cold because the seeds will respond to it faster but do not use hot water as it can damage or even kill the seeds.

Because pea seeds sprout so quickly you want to avoid leaving them in the water for too long or risk drowning the seed.  And the reason you want to soak them in the first place is to aid there germination.  Soaking just mimics what takes place in nature, only in nature the process is much slower as the soil temperatures are cooler and water can only be taken in from the moist soil surrounding the seed.

That shriveled one in the middle has got to go!
Once the seeds are soaked you can line them out on the paper towels for sprouting.  Be sure to watch for any culls, those seeds that did not swell, and toss them out.  You want fresh healthy seeds that are ready to get growing and its not worth trying to see if that shriveled seed will grow...believe me I know...I tried and failed too many times and wasted precious garden space because of it too.

Moisten the paper towel bed with a little bit of water, place another layer of paper towel on top of the seeds and moisten it too.

 Finally cover the whole works with plastic wrap and set on top of the refrigerator or other warm location until the seeds have germinated. Its best to not put them in direct sunlight as it can get too hot beneath that plastic with the sunlight shining on it.

The seeds take about 24 to 36 hours to sprout so check them at least once a day until they are sprouted. You need to keep on top of it as far as getting them planted soon after they sprout or they will root right into the paper towels which can be a real mess when it comes to planting time.
The promise of future produce and encouragement for the heart.

Aren't these amazing!  These seeds were soaked 8 hours and set on the top of my fridge for 36 hours.  Now that is instant gratification and encouraging enough for anyone to believe they can grow from seed.  Wouldn't you agree?

NOTES:  Peas can be sown in late winter (February) for a spring crop and again in summer for a fall harvest.  For spring crops its recommended (especially for flowering sweet peas) to amend the soil with steer manure in the fall where you plan on sowing them the next spring.  It is also a good idea to treat your seed with an inoculent containing Rhizobium leguminosarum, a bacteria which helps the plants to fix the nitrogen which in turn aids in keeping them healthy and increase production.  This also causes the roots of the pea plants to form nitrogen nodules which are beneficial as a fertilizer in the soil.

Copyright © 2010 by Patricia Hicks

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