Problem with pea plants

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Q: For the last three or four years our peas have had a problem. We plant them and maybe half come up and sometimes none. We replant and a few more come up. This spring, we planted a 3 m (10 ft.) row on the other side of the netting and none came up. We replanted again and none came up. My wife dug up some small shoots and the bottom roots had rotted off. The area is not wet. We fertilize a bit and water well. We planted a row of sugar peas 3 m (10 ft.) away and they all came up. Any suggestions? Grow beans? Take up bird watching? Get my peas in a tin can?

It certainly sounds as if you have had a challenging time trying to achieve a successful pea crop. From your information, I suspect you have Fusarium wilt, in the form of root rot, which can develop at any stage and is caused by soil-borne fungi. It can be difficult to control soil-borne pathogens once established, but it’s never too late for prevention for future crops. Before you’re ready to plant again here are some tips:

  • Remove infected plants from the garden and dispose of them – do not compost.
  • Rotate the location of peas and beans in the garden to reduce the incidence of soil-borne diseases that can build up over time.
  • When selecting seeds, look for certified seeds that state they are resistant to Fusarium wilt.
  • Once your plants are actively growing, do not work around them when wet.
  • Prepare the trench in the fall digging the soil over and then letting it settle in time for early spring planting.
  • Avoid plant stress including: poor fertility, water logging, drought, herbicide injury, as this increases the risk of root rot problems.
  • Vigorous seedlings have a better chance to outgrow early season infection, so using healthy seed with high germination is important. Slow emergence due to cool weather or poor seed can result in problems with seed decay and root rot.

There’s nothing like fresh garden peas, so try not to be discouraged by this hiccup; you may be reduced to canned peas for one season, however, unless you have an alternative spot to grow them for rotation purposes. Incidentally, bird watching is a good plan regardless, they have been known to pinch those seeds or young seedlings right out of the ground, before the plants have a chance to establish! Hope this information helps and you and your wife are enjoying homegrown bounty again before too long.