Tag Archives: Champion of England tall climbing peas

Eleven-peas-in-a-pod

Pea wars and tech woes

I’ve been missing from the virtual world this week. I’ve been fighting a battle – well, two, actually. Though, the second one required me to call up the cavalry.

Did you see my beautiful fresh garden peas on my Wordless Wednesday post last week? This is the image here if you missed it.

First Champion of England Pea Pod 2016

I’ve been carefully watching the pea pods gradually plumping up and this was my ‘test pod’, to check if my tall garden peas had fully grown and were ready to pick. A pod-full of bright green, sweet, juicy peas – just right and just ripe for picking. There were quite a few pods at this stage now, so I was looking forward to my first Champion of England tall pea harvest.

The next morning, I went off to pick my peas. But OH NO! Horror! My beautifully ripe pods of peas had already been picked! Well, not as much ‘picked’ as pecked!

Damaged pea pod - pecked by birds
One of the damaged pea pods – pecked open by birds

This was the sorry sight that met my eyes on my tall pea frame. Lots of ripe peas ripped away. Some of the pea plants were mangled too – evidently visited by a stampede of starving birds.

My battle with the pea-eating birds has been ongoing this week, attack and counter-attack … them against me – me against them. Though I must say they have been very sneaky … or, from their point of view, very careful and clever! I’ve still never actually caught them in the act of pea-munching … but I do now have a reliable witness who has seen them both picking the peas and then picnicking happily on the shed roof 😉

I was initially inclined to blame the local population of jackdaws, as I’ve previously encountered them pea pinching. But then I began to think the amount of damage there’d been to the pea plants, this must be the work of heavier birds. I then believed the wood pigeons must be responsible. However, the witness for the prosecution was quite certain – definitely the jackdaws, and very persistent they have been too!

Tall peas covered in netting and fleece
The first line of defence – garden netting and fleece on the pea plants

The first of my counter-offensives saw me covering the whole of the tall pea frame and the growing pea plants with a combination of garden netting and fleece (in the pouring rain, of course!). Did this work? No, not good enough!

Next, I added willow hoops to hold the netting away from the pea plants. Still not good enough! I then added unstable hazel twigs on the outside of the willow hoops and the netting. Promising at first, but still not completely effective.

Now, hopefully, I have added the final layer of defence – chicken wire! With each additional layer of defence, it’s certainly becoming more difficult to pick the peas … not only for the jackdaws, but also for me!

Protecting pea plants
Three layers of defence – protecting peas from the birds

My other battle this week has been against a machine … my desktop computer to be precise. At the end of last week, I’d carefully prepared to upgrade my computer’s operating system. Early in the morning that Saturday, I hit the upgrade button.

For the first two hours everything went smoothly. I was completely in control. Then, boxes began to appear. The boxes said things like, “failed” and “cannot complete the upgrade”. Before I’d managed to digest the first message, succeeding ones appeared much too quickly. UGH!

There was nothing else for it, I’d have to call in my tech team. “Are you busy, dears? I’m afraid something’s gone wrong,” I called up the stairs.

My children came to the rescue. My carefully planned upgrade was now in tatters. I don’t consider myself entirely useless with computer software but my two teenage sons are invaluable when things do go wrong. Rather like my ‘pea wars’ against the jackdaws, we devised a battle plan against the computer.

Gradually, over the course of the week, I am glad to report that not only have I managed to repel the maurauding jackdaws, but we have also managed to win out against the computer’s persistent attempts to thwart us 😉

Hopefully, peace and tranquility have now been restored so I can get back to my blogging … 😀

J Peggy Taylor

Tall Pea Plants flowering

A tall pea plant tale

Picking fresh pea pods is one of the delights of Summer vegetable gardening here in the UK. My new allotment garden share means this year I can once again indulge in this delight.

I’ve grown peas in the past, but this time, I’m growing tall peas. Very tall peas they are actually – growing up to 10 feet tall! Now that is tall! (10 feet is about 3 metres if you’re metric 🙂 )

I chose my tall climbing peas from The Real Seed Catalogue. They’re a heritage seed variety called “Champion of England” and, like a lot of heritage seeds, they have a lovely little story behind them.

The Champion of England tall climbing pea is a traditional UK pea, dating back to the mid-19th century. In years gone by, all peas were tall peas, but with the advent of mechanised harvesting, shorter varieties became the norm as the harvesting machines were unable to harvest from taller plants. Once tall peas were no longer grown as commercial crops, apart from a few seeds in seedbanks, the Champion of England pea became unavailable … until one day in 2007.

In 2007, the people at Real Seeds received a letter from a Mr Robert Woodbridge in Lincolnshire. His grandmother had grown Champion of England tall climbing peas in her garden in Pickworth, Lincolnshire and saved their own family strain of these peas since the 1940s.

Mr Woodbridge’s grandfather had worked at a large country house during World War II, mending greenhouses, and his grandmother had originally been given some of the Champion of England peas by the head gardener there. Mr Woodbridge had kept his promise to his grandmother to keep growing and saving the Champion of England tall pea and had a batch of seeds that he offered to Real Seeds.

The people at Real Seeds were, of course, delighted and called the peas “an amazing find”. They have then been able to gradually produce more of the Champion of England tall peas until they had enough to offer them through their online Real Seeds Catalogue.

Champion of England tall climbing peas - sowing peas direct
Early in May – sowing Champion of England peas directly into the soil

I began sowing my Champion of England peas on 3rd April, though with my earliest pea sowings, I don’t sow them straight into the ground. It would be too cold for them in April – especially this Spring, which was very chilly here in Northern England.

Instead, I put 12 dry peas in a jar and amply cover them with cold water. I leave the peas to soak for around 24-48 hours, then I drain out the soaking water and also give the soaked peas another rinse or two with fresh water.

The drained, but still wet, peas stay in their jar (covered loosely with the lid) on my kitchen counter until they sprout. I just rinse them with fresh cold water a couple of times a day.

After about 4-5 days the radicle (root) of the peas begins to grow. When most of the peas have grown a radicle, I then plant the sprouted peas into cardboard toilet roll tubes filled with multi-purpose compost. I find 12 tubes just fit nicely into an upcycled plastic carton saved from supermarket-bought mushrooms.

I repeated this whole process with another batch of 12 peas when the previous batch had been planted into their cardboard tubes and had produced small pea shoots (approximately 8-10 day intervals).

Champion of England tall climbing peas - planting out
Pea plants planted out complete with their cardboard tubes

My Champion of England peas had an excellent germination record using my sprouting method. When the pea shoots had grown to about 4-6 inches tall (10-15 cms), I planted them out in the allotment.

The first batch of 10 successful plants were planted out on 21st April. With the pea plants being in cardboard tubes, planting out is simply a case of digging a deep enough hole and planting in the whole thing, tube and all. I added a generous trowel-ful or two of my deliciously earthy-smelling home-made garden compost to the planting hole before putting in the pea plant, to give the plant a good feed as it grows.

Tall Pea Frame - adding the cross-pieces
Tall Pea Frame – adding the cross-pieces

While I was waiting for my peas to grow, I built a huge pea frame from hazel rods and netting and set it firmly in the ground. The upper cross piece that supports the netting is 8 feet (approximately 2.5 metres) above the ground.

Tall Pea Frame - the finished rustic hazel rod frame
Tall Pea Frame – the finished frame with its rustic hazel poles and pea netting

Although the Champion of England peas were reputed to grow to 10 feet, I must say I was a little skeptical as to whether they would manage this on our cold and windy northern hillside. (Our local climate is a bit different to the peas’ original home in Lincolnshire!) But, I thought I’d build the pea frame tall enough, just in case my tall pea plants did reach their maximum height.

Champion of England tall climbing peas about a foot tall
On 25th May the pea plants were about a foot tall

My Champion of England pea plants grew relatively slowly at first – probably due to the cool conditions we experienced through much of the Spring. However, as soon as the weather began to warm up a little bit and we saw a bit more of the sun, the transplanted pea plants began to shoot away.

At the end of May, after about a month in the ground, the plants were around a foot to 18 inches high (30-45cm).

Champion of England tall climbing peas
By the 9th June the pea plants reached the first cross bar – approximately 3 feet tall

By 18th June the tallest pea plant measured almost 5 feet high (1.5 metres).

Champion of England tall climbing peas - nearly 5 feet tall
Champion of England tall climbing peas – nearly 5 feet tall

Now, on 2nd July, the tallest plant has reached 7 feet high (2 metres).

Champion of England tall climbing peas - 7 feet tall
Champion of England tall climbing peas – 7 feet tall

Even more exciting than the fact that my peas plants were rapidly turning into tall peas, on the Summer Solstice (21st June) I spotted one of my tall pea plants had produced its first beautiful natural white flowers.

Champion of England tall climbing peas -first flowers
Champion of England tall climbing peas -first flowers

About a week later, a good few more flowers had appeared and then, even more exciting, I saw the first pea pod forming. Now, about a further week on, I can see the tiny peas beginning to show in a couple of the pods.

Champion of England tall climbing peas - first peas forming in pod
Champion of England tall climbing peas – first peas forming in pod

It’s just so exciting growing tall peas! I can hardly wait to taste these sweet, fresh garden peas … I just hope the jackdaws don’t get there first 😀

J Peggy Taylor