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Success with Peas and Beans

If you’ve had trouble with pea, fava and bean production, take note!

1. Soak the seeds a few hours to overnight. This will help the seed coats soften, take in water and swell- allowing for faster germination.

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Golden Sweet Pea seed, soaked overnight and inoculated with bacteria

2. Inoculate with Rhizobium bacteria. This isn’t necessary if you already have microbe-rich soil. However, if you’re growing in containers, haven’t amended your garden with compost in awhile or are using new garden soil, this step will help increase growth, health and production of your peas and beans. Look for products called “legume inoculant”, such as this from Johnny’s Seeds.

3. Plant directly outdoors. Peas and fava beans can be planted in Chicagoland this week (April 13th) through mid-May. If planted earlier, they may take a longer time to sprout or even rot in the cool, wet soil. Beans can be planted mid-May through late June. Follow directions on your seed packet for spacing and planting depth.

4. Take care not to overfertilize. Since legumes fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere, it is not necessary to add much to the soil. Try a balanced blend of 4-4-4 or apply half of the recommended amount of a 10-10-10 fertilizer. This information will be on your bag of fertilizer.

Bumble bee visiting a fava bean flower

Bumble bee visiting a fava bean flower

5. Provide support for those who need it. Bush beans do not require a trellis, while pole beans and runner beans do. Since climbing peas and beans use tendrils to attach to a trellis, use netting, string or wire materials that are less than 1/4″ in diameter. Larger materials such as bamboo are more difficult for the tendrils to attach. Wondering where to get information on plant/trellis height? It will be on your seed packet! Wondering which is the best trellis design? Check out these tips from our friends at Seed Savers Exchange.

6. Harvest frequently to keep your plants productive and the pods tender. This will discourage them from going to seed and getting tough. If you forget to pick for a few days, remove the largest pods and eat or add to the compost. New pods will form shortly.

Dragon Tongue bush beans

Dragon Tongue bush beans