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Direct-seeding peas

Peas with Rhizobium bacteria

The first direct-seeded crop went in today: Sugar Ann snap peas. As usual, the peas were inoculated with Rhizobium bacteria: dampen the seed with a little water, sprinkle with inoculant powder, and shake.

Rhizobium bacteria enter legume roots and form a symbiotic relationship with their hosts, producing plant-usable nitrogen in exchange for carbohydrates and other nutritious goodies from the plants. The net result is…more nitrogen for all! Or as the inoculant package says: “bigger yields and better quality”!

Sounds great. I take it on faith (in the science, I guess), since I haven’t actually observed the with-and-without inoculation difference. I have a couple of times planted without, but I wasn’t taking measurements…

Each legume (peas, beans, clover, etc) needs its own species or strain of Rhizobia. Luckily, there are packets of premixed assortments that cover the common veggie legumes. What I’ve been using, called simply enough, Garden Inoculant, is good for beans, peas, lima beans and sweet peas.

The bacteria do establish in the soil so that they’re available from year to year, but I’m not sure how long and in what quantities it takes to get set up with the strains you need—until I find out, I’ll inoculate every time…

Peas and Planet Jr seeder

Then it’s on to the seeder. I’m using the older, heavier, probably-antique Planet Jr. over the usual Earthway.

Seeded peas

And minutes later, 3oo’ (91m) done. It’s an almost painfully small start for April 20, but I’m figuring that every few days I leave the broken up sod to break down more, the better off we’ll be. Soon, though, all the rest of the early direct seeded crops will just have to go in!

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5 Comments

  1. Matt

    The way to check if you need innoculants is pretty easy, pull up some and look at the roots.

    http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/N/NitrogenFixation.html

    The nodules formed by the Rhiozobium are pretty apparant, and I’ve never seen them on other non-legume roots I’ve pulled up.

    It may not help you planting each spring and being paranoid if they made it through the winter, but for the home gardener curious about it for next year, just take a look at this year’s roots.  If the nodules are there and you’re planting in the same garden, no need to innoculate.

    If it was me, I’d just buy them the first year and double check in year 2 that nodules are still present.

  2. Yey for the first direct seeding! And thanks for all the info on keeping them healthy – do you put the garden innoculant right at the roots like compost or mulch?

  3. FarmCat

    I had a break in my weather here in SE Wisconsin, so I put my peas in a week ago, using my brand new Earthway seeder. I’d never used a seeder before. The snow peas were a breeze. The snap peas were, I think, just a little bigger, or maybe I soaked them too long, or maybe I put too much inocculant on. Anyway, they kept jamming in the seeder. Instead of falling through the hole into the seed chute, they kept sticking and ending up wedged behind the plate.

    Have you had similar trouble with peas and the Earthway? Is that why you used the Planet Jr. instead?

  4. mike

    the seed behind the plate is a problem with earthways. They’re also light-weight which can be a problem when you’re “driving” them through new ground where the sod has been chopped but hasn’t fully rotted.
    I know that seed soaking is a trick when handplanting, but with seeder seeding, I’ve always gone with “hard” seed and watered or rained the seed in.
    Also make sure that you get the additional set of seed plates for the earthway and think about the Jung seeder- it looks and sounds way cooler, but cooler comes at about 5X the cost.

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