Growing Crops: Black Eyed Pea

Also known as the Cowpea, this legume (actually a bean) is a staple of Southeastern American cuisine. A versatile food item, they can either be picked when immature like you would pick green beans or sugar snap pea pods and eaten whole, or allowed to mature like you would grow shelling peas or beans, removing the peas from the pods and eating them fresh or drying for later use.

The California Blackeye is the most common variety, and can indeed be ordered either through Nature Hills Nursery (click on the banner at the top of the page) or here:

Best Climate to Grow: Warm, southern climates are the best, as these plants require a long growing season. They are not frost hardy.

Light Requirements: Full sun.

Soil Requirements: Loose, somewhat sandy soil rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, slightly acidic pH.

Feeding and Water Requirements: If you have amended your soil prior to planting, no further fertilization is required. Keep soil just slightly moist, as this plant tolerates drier conditions well. Mulching with compost is a good way to keep weeds down and moisture in.

When to Plant: Well after the last frost date, when the soil has reached at least 70 degrees F. Frost will kill them.

Planting Depth and Spacing: Before you plant, be sure to place tall stakes at the end of each row with sturdy string or wire stretched between the stakes about 1 foot above the ground to help support the plants as they grow. They come in bush and semi-vining varieties, so a full trellis system may not be necessary. Sow them directly in the ground (they don’t tolerate transplanting) 1 inch deep and 4 inches apart. Thin as needed if they become too crowded.

Container Requirements: Black eyed peas will do well in a medium-sized container at least 6 inches deep. Because they are drought tolerant, they are actually better suited to the somewhat drier conditions of container growing than their bean and pea cousins that require moist soil at all times. You won’t have to worry quite so much about constantly watering them.

Harvesting and Storage: You can harvest black eyed peas three ways. The first method is to snip them while they are very immature and tender, and eat the pods the way you would eat green beans.

The second method is to wait for the pods to mature (but not dry out) and then use the beans inside fresh. You will need to snip the beans with garden shears regularly before they become too dry (a few days a week), otherwise they will stop producing more beans.

This brings us to the third method. Allow them to dry up on the vine. When the pods are dry and leathery and shrunken around the beans inside, harvest them, remove the beans from the pods, and allow them to dry completely to the point of being as hard as small pebbles. Save some for replanting next year; use the rest for cooking.

Pests to Monitor: Aphids, various Beetles, various Leafhoppers, Mites, non-beneficial Nematodes. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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