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15 Bags of Compost and Me: Talking To Peas

This is Episode 2 of my gardening series '15 Bags of Compost and Me' where I explore how gardening is developing as a personal practice.



Walking some plants at 8am

It is 8am on Easter Sunday. The sun is already high in the sky and my street is covered with chalk rainbows that children completed at intervals on a sticky Saturday. Completely unaware of how crazy I must look, I am having an argument with my pea plants as I carry them down the road in a plastic container from my daughter’s toy storage unit. The crux of my argument is that if they had not grown so leggy, then they would not be swaying in the breeze with such a magnificent fervour. But they’re not listening to me.


My pea problems started about 10 days ago, 3 days after I meticulously planted 4 peas per pot to give them space, and the first shoots of green white started to edge its way out. They haven’t stopped growing since. One day they literally doubled in size overnight.


I’ve asked a couple of people about them, and consulted photos of Monty Don’s seedlings in his book, ‘The Complete Gardener’, and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with them - aside from the pace they’ve grown in 2 weeks. No one ever hears a gardener complain something they planted is growing too well.


However, with the move imminent and compost in short supply, I’m not able to plant

them out until at least the weekend after Easter and I’m cautious to replant because I know peas aren’t huge fans of root disturbance. So, I have been doing what every sensible person would do during lockdown, I have been talking to the peas. I’ve been arguing, I’ve been pleading with them to chill out. I’ve moved them out of the sun and that just led to them growing to reach the sun.


This brings us to Easter Sunday morning. I am going to the new house to sort some bits and pieces out, and using my state sanctioned walk there to move a tray of plants over as I’m slightly nervous and seedlings during the move. As I write this, they are sat in pots in the garden - both to harden them off, but also to understand the situation. Last year I had 4 pea seedlings which I adopted and ultimately killed by forgetting all about them on my front room’s window sill.


I’m growing a selection of peas and sowing successionally (planting more seeds every few weeks) just to see what grows best and to experience different kinds of peas. I’m dreaming of my charmette plans, a petit pois which only grow to 2ft tall sitting in front of Rosakrone, a Swedish heirloom pea with pastel pink and striking red contrasting flowers. I’m also growing some varieties of sugar snap and mangetout, for when I inevitably get bored of shelling peas. These options range from Norli, a mangetout I picked up on a whim in Wilko last year and never planted, to Bijou a giant sugar snap that was popular in the 1800s, and has pods the size of mugs. Alongside successional sowings - planting seeds every few weeks - I’m also experimenting by pinching the tips off the batch of seedlings with the hope of getting more crop and a bushier pea.


The other big part of my pea strategy is building them a suitable home to scramble against. My dream of coppice pea sticks that peas weave their way through and explore is out the window, but my hope is that I can make something pleasing for them out of bamboo canes I already have, and from the bamboo that, for some landscaping choice, forms the entirety of the new house’s front garden. But that’s all to come soon.


If you have any experience pinching out peas, or of building fun pea structures I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also if you’re worried that lockdown has gotten to me and I’m talking to peas, last year I took a ripe strawberry to show my strawberry plants for motivation. It’s business as normal in quirky town over here.


COPYRIGHT HEIDI MURPHY, 2020

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