Champion show grower John Trim reveals the secrets of growing top quality exhibition peas to get you the winner’s red card at the show. The humble pea is probably our most popular vegetable after potatoes and most home growers will have a row or two on the plot.
However, to win a red winner’s card at the show isn’t quite so easy as putting some peas on the plate. Show growing is about nearing perfection and the methods used to get to that level are far more involved and time consuming than growing for the table.
The Right Variety of Peas to Win With
To win with peas you must grow with the right variety. And the variety that wins all the top shows is Show Perfection. This pea was introduced by Suttons seeds in 1957 came from a cross with Suttons Achievement and Evergreen.
To give yourself a chance of success It is imperative that you obtain a strain of Show Perfection that has been reselected over the years to produce 10 plus peas in a pod.
The best way to come by a good strain is to seek advice from an exhibitor at a show.
Growing Exhibition Peas for Show
Peas enjoy a fertile soil that has had plenty of well rotted manure added in the previous autumn.
Nothing fresh as this is too high in nitrogen which could result in plenty of leaf but few peas.
In early Spring rake in a general fertiliser, Vitax Q4 or Chempak base fertiliser, follow the directions on the packet.
A day or two before planting out dust the ground with bone meal and ground limestone, lightly rake in.
Growing Peas for Show Method.
On average the peas will take 80/85 days from sowing to full pods ready to pick.
First of all soak the peas in a jar of water for 24 hours. The peas will plump up and make for easier germination.
Sow the seeds individually in small pots. In 5/7 days the seed will germinate. Bring the plants on in a cool greenhouse, they can be planted out when they are about 200mm tall.
The peas are grown cordon fashion up 8’ canes set 9” apart.
As the peas grow they must be tied to the canes at every leaf joint. All side shoots and tendril’s should nipped off. For best results only allow 6 pods to set on each cordon.
Peas demand a lot of attention, when growing strongly they will need tying in every other day or so.
Keep an eye out for aphids and at the first sign spray with SB Plant Invigorator. This organic insecticide also has the advantage of having some effect against mildew the major fungal disease of the pea.
All spraying is done prior to pea set. It is not advisable to spray the pods as it can damage the skin condition.
The first flowers will set 50 days from the sowing date. From flower set it will take between 22/25 days until the pods are full and ready to pick. If 2 flowers set on the same stalk pinch one off.
Check the developing pods by holding them up to the light by the stalk to check for any gaps in the pod, never touch the bloom on the pea. All peas showing gaps should be removed.
Picking the Peas for Show.
Prepare a box by lining the bottom with a thick bed of fresh nettles. If possible select peas that have a minimum of 10/11 peas in a pod. Cut them leaving a long stalk and arrange on the nettles so that no one pea is touching another. Take a couple of spares if you have them. Cover the peas with another layer of nettles and store in a cool place before transport to the show.
Always arrange your peas in a straight line, never a Catherine wheel, this just makes extra work for the judge’s and you don’t want to annoy them. Take care you have the right number in your dish. Finally cover with tissue paper.
And don’t forget to leave a cultivar card with the name of the variety.