IMAGE: Fall peas
Peas grow best when they can twine their tendrils around a trellis, even the so-called bush varieties, which only grow about 3 feet tall. Trellises are fun to build, and some of the most practical and pretty ones can be made with recycled or inexpensive material.
Tree Trimmings Peas grow really well up tree and shrub trimmings, especially ones with lots of twiggy growth. If you’re growing peas in a row, simply push some twigs into the soil behind the row. Or, create a focal point in a bed by building a teepee. Make the base about 2 1/2 feet wide and tie the branches together at the top with a piece of twine. Red and yellow twig dogwood trimmings make especially pretty trellises. Just keep in mind that their fresh trimmings can root in damp soil. Get around this problem by allowing them to dry out for a few weeks or burning the cut end. If you have access to grape vine trimmings, snap them up! The flexible vines make lovely trellises.
Fencing Material Peas love to climb up chicken wire because it is easy for the tendrils to wrap around the small gauge wire. If you have an old window frame, carefully remove the glass and staple chicken wire in its place. Prop the window up the wall and grow bush peas at the base of the window trellis. You can also wrap a strip of chicken wire around the base of bamboo trellises to help give the peas a leg up. Chain link fences also make great trellises and covering them up with plants makes them look a lot better! Simply plant peas along the bottom and train the peas up. You can also turn a wooden fence into a trellis by stapling hog wire or concrete reinforcing wire panels to the fence supports.
Try growing all three types of peas (snap, snow, and shelling) up trellises. Shelling peas have a fibrous pod, but the peas inside are amazingly sweet and delicious. Snow peas produce a crisp, tasty pod and sugar snap peas offer the best of both worlds because they put out loads of crunchy sweet pods and they have tasty sweet seeds. Some of my favorite varieties are ‘Golden India’ snow pea, ‘Sugar Ann’ snap pea, and ‘Wando’ shelling pea.
Willi Galloway is the author of Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, and she writes about organic vegetable gardening and seasonal cooking on her blog, DigginFood.