How to Grow Peas in Hot Weather

Learn how to grow healthy peas in hot weather by giving them lots of water.

| May/June 1977

  • 045-068-01-peas
    Gordon Solberg of Radium Springs, New Mexico knows how to harvest 31 pounds of shelled peas from just a 10-by-12 foot patch of ground ... in 100 degree Fahrenheit weather.

  • 045-068-01-peas

I well remember the April day back in Missouri when I was proudly showing my Ozark garden to a local vegetable grower of many years' experience. As we came to the peas, my friend took one look at the strong, green vines and shook his head. "Peas need cool, moist weather to survive," he told me. "Come June, these fine vines will be withered and brown ... mark my words."

The man was absolutely right. Those plants fared well only until late May. After that, the scorching sun of summer proceeded — day after day — to parch and singe the peas unmercifully. Come harvest time, each scrawny vine seemed absolutely eager to give up its skimpy handful of pods so it could go ahead and die in peace before the weather got even hotter.

Soon thereafter, I moved to even drier and hotter New Mexico and — naturally — in the process gave up all hope of ever growing peas again. After all, if the delicate plants didn't do well in Missouri, how could they possibly thrive in New Mexico, where springtime temperatures often top 100 degrees Fahrenheit?

It was my father's gardening success in the Southwest, however, that changed my thinking completely. Despite the Sahara-like weather, Dad seemed to grow magnificent crops of peas, on vines that stood up and bore heavily even when afternoon temperatures hovered around the century mark! His secret: Give the plants water ... lots of water. With this in mind, I decided I'd try to grow peas after all.

First, however, I had to work on our soil. My garden is located on the Rio Grande flood plain, about 50 feet from the river itself. The water table — consequently — is only 24 inches below the surface, and the soil is so alkaline that I still don't know its pH. (The soil test kit I use only goes to pH 8.0.) When I first moved here, the only plant life in my proposed vegetable patch was some salt grass interspersed with a few mesquite bushes ... hardly what you'd call a garden of Eden.

Fortunately, I had plenty of goat manure on hand and — by digging the wastes into the ground — I was able to both reduce the soil pH and loosen up the hard adobe clay. In addition, I gathered willow leaves from along the river and tilled them under with some spoiled hay. The garden — thus enriched — produced a fair crop of corn the first year. I figured by then that it was probably ready for peas, too.

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