Trellising Peas

Last weekend we did some more early spring planting and got our peas in the ground. For the spring, we have planned two long rows of regular garden peas and one short row of snap peas. For the long rows, we are using our old trellises:


These are just basically square pine posts hammered into the ground. They are roughly 8-foot lengths, several feet of which are underground. Each trellis has two ends, a center post, and a brace across the top. The top brace is actually two pieces that are held together with a big nail into the center post. You can see how they are cut to fit together here:


Since we have small cars and storage areas, being able to break the trellises down into 6- to 8-foot long pieces is a big help when we have to move them around. Once the three posts are hammered into the ground, we unroll the pea netting and weave it around the posts on the outside square, then we thread the top braces through the top of the netting and set them in place with the nails on top. We have finally worked out a system for this, and there was remarkably little frustration and yelling when we put it up this spring. 


Two 12-foot trellises side by side just about fill out our 27-foot long beds. The peas are down the center, and other things will be planted on either side of the trellis later this spring. Since the peas grow straight up the trellises, a row on both sides of the trellis still only take up a 6-inch width of ground space, so there's lots of room left in those beds. The double trellis shown above is repeated in another bed, so that's a total of just over 50 row feet of garden peas.

The snap peas, though, are in a much smaller plot — just a 12-foot row in the snacking bed by the kitchen door. We are fresh out of scrap wood and netting to make any more trellises, so we re-purposed some traditional garden trellises that had been attached to the fence by the driveway:


It's not clear to me who thought that trellises along the driveway side of the fence were a good idea — nothing grows on blacktop. We pulled them off the fence, cut off the sharp, rusty nails, and sank them into the ground here. We added some twine to bridge the gaps where they are narrow at the bottom, so the small vines should be able to catch hold without too much trouble. This is like a more modern, structural nod to traditional pea brush. Pea brush is a collection of branches (usually gathered from spring pruning of fruit trees) that are stuck into the ground to provide something for pea vines to climb on. We saw this in action at Old Sturbridge Village several years ago. You can look at a photo of this type of thing here. It looks cool somewhere like OSV or Plimoth Plantation, but I'm not sure such a free-form, and, um, slightly messy look would work in our highly formalized garden. Besides, the whole point of pea brush is to recycle branches that would otherwise end up in a brush pile, so I think our recycling of the trellises is in the spirit of traditional New England gardening after all.

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