A singular black “eye” sets this pea apart from others. Despite being a pea, however, it is more of a bean than it is a pea. Because of that, it is uniquely tasty (like all beans), fits well in a wide variety of dishes, and, more importantly, grows effortlessly in almost any place. That’s why growing black eyed peas in your backyard can be such a worthwhile experience. And here, we want to tell you how.
Whether you want to have peas ready for New Year’s or a consistent yield that never runs out – you’ll find everything you need to know in this article. Take a look below and find out!
Why should you consider growing black eyed peas?
At first you may be asking yourself, “why do I need to know what they are? I already know!”
Well, that may be accurate because you’ve probably seen them and ate them before. But do you really know what they are exactly?
Here, the first thing you need to know is that “black-eyed peas” are not peas. Like we explained above, they are beans. That may be enough to change your understanding of them.
Its scientific name is “Vigna unguiculata,” but it also has many common names. The most popular is “black-eyed peas.” But it’s also called the “cowpea,” “Southern pea,” “goat pea,” and even “field pea.” Many people also refer to it as the “poor men’s meat,” as it contains the highest amount of protein in the plant world.
On top of that, the plant stands out for the unique colored spot on its side. Some of them are white with black eyes. But you may also find green and pink with brown spots instead. And in some cases, the beans are red with a white area.
Each bean grows inside a pod. The pod is green and large, growing directly from the stem of the plant itself. Each pod can hold about 10 to 15 beans.
More interestingly, the plant originated from Asia and Africa, specifically the subtropical parts. For that reason, the black-eyed peas plant thrives in different conditions. It is one of the sturdiest vegetables and one of the most versatile plant companions you can use.
Below, we go over a set of steps that will help you plant it, grow it, and harvest it as needed.
10 Tips for Growing Black-Eyed Peas in a Backyard
The plant that gives these peas is easy to grow. But that doesn’t mean it requires no effort at all. Apart from planting it correctly, you should ensure a good-enough environment so the plant can thrive.
To make that happen, you can follow our tips below:
1. Start in the Right Season
As a subtropical plant, it requires warm soil. There’s no other way around it. If your backyard temperatures go below 60 degrees consistently, you will struggle to grow it.
Also, it requires that the environment doesn’t frost at all. So, even if you live in a subtropical area that still has frosts a few times a year, you may not have the chance to grow it (unless you use a greenhouse).
With that in mind, you obviously need to start in the right season. While rainy seasons are not necessarily bad for the plant, it is recommended to begin in the Spring or Summer. In fact, you should try planting at least 100 days before Fall.
If you can start this way, you’ll have half the job done. The seeds will have germinate more easily and the plant will grow a lot faster.
2. Use the Ideal Soil
Now, even if you chose the right season, you won’t get any growth if you don’t plant it in the right soil.
Luckily, this plant is not exactly demanding. As long as the soil pH is slightly acidic or neutral (between 6 and 7 pH), you’ll have no problems.
Be aware, though, this plant thrives in well-draining soil. As long as the humidity is enough but not damping, it will grow effortlessly. For that reason, we recommend staying away from soils that absorb too much water (mossy or mulchy grounds).
Also, the soil should be well-manured. If you can add compost slightly, that should be ideal. And to make it even better, fertilizer will do the job.
Fertilizer is mostly helpful when the soil is not precisely rich (or you lack manure). Otherwise, just add a bit.
3. Find a Large Enough Space
If you’ve found the perfect soil for the plant, it’s time to sow the seeds. But before, you need to make sure the space is large enough.
A black-eyed peas plant needs to have at least 1 square meter in space to thrive. Each seed should be at least 1 foot from the other. For that reason, you will need a lot of space (between 5 to 10 feet of space).
This happens because the plant creates a viny stem that doesn’t stay in one place. If you don’t leave enough space around, the plant will molest others and vice-versa. This could cause everything from too much shade to lack of nutrients and more. While rare, it could cause growth problems.
4. Plant Correctly (And Leave it Be!)
After finding the ideal place, you can start planting. For this, the best thing you can do is to create ridges and/or small holes to place the seeds in.
These ridges or holes need to be no less than 1 inch deep. If you’re planting a lot of seeds at once, try separating them into rows or columns. The focus is to have some kind of organization, as the plant grows like a vine, which can be challenging to organize later on.
5. Don’t Transplant or Repot
Now that you’ve planted the seeds, the plant should start growing almost right away. That often means a week or two before seeing sprouts. When this happens, it’s essential to not transplant or repot. This plant doesn’t like that.
That’s why planting directly in your backyard is a much better choice than planting in pots. In case you’re starting in a container, use peat or paper around the soil. This will make it easier to transplant later on without disturbing the roots (as the peat or paper will break down over time).
6. Add Support for the Plant
While the plant is growing, you’ll see how the vine gets all around, trying to climb everything it finds, crawling everywhere it can. That’s why giving it support can be so helpful.
It is worth trying a trellis or a tripod. A single stake or wire wall could also work. The focus is to help it climb a structure instead of crawling around (the peas don’t grow as well when the stems are low). Apart from that, supports will help the plant grow higher and make it easy to harvest.
We recommend doing this as soon as possible. While you can wait a few weeks until the plant starts sprouting out of the soil, you can also do it just after planting. It shouldn’t cause any problem.
7. Maintain a Humid Soil
One of the main requirements for the black-eyed peas plant to thrive is humidity. Of course, all plants require this. But there’s a bit of complication here.
This plant is somewhat drought-resistant. Meaning, it can stay a few days or weeks without any water, and it will still thrive. However, it could get drought-stressed.
What does this mean? The plant may feel like humidity is not enough and decide it won’t produce any pods. Without the pods, you won’t have beans.
Sure, it is rare when this happens. But you should still be careful. That’s why watering every two days is a great way to keep it humid.
On top of that, be sure to only water the soil and not the leaves or stems. This plant is somewhat fragile on its upperparts, as it could quickly grow fungus and diseases if overwatered.
8. Ensure Complete Sun Exposure
Alongside watering consistently for humidity, the black-eyed peas plant also demands consistent sun exposure.
Leaving it outside is essential not only for space but also because of the sunlight. It requires no less than 6 hours a day. Yet, it thrives when it receives 8 hours of light or more.
If worth knowing that it can still get sunburned. The leaves, being somewhat fragile, may dry and brown away if the sun is too harsh. For that, try covering the plant with an umbrella or similar shade-giving object. Reducing its sunlight exposure for a few hours should be enough.
9. Harvest the Peas
After 70 to 80 days of growth, the plant will be several inches long. At this stage, it may start producing pods.
These pods will be ready for eating as soon as they grow to 3 or 4 inches long. At that stage, they’re called snap beans.
If you want to harvest them as shell beans, you can wait 10 or 20 more days. The pods should grow a couple of inches more, and the beans will look swelled.
In case you prefer dry beans, harvest the pods once 100 or more days have passed from planting. The pods will look dried, meaning they’ve entirely matured.
Either way, you can start harvesting the plant itself in the first 40 days of growth. At this stage, the leaves will be large enough to use on salads and other foods.
10. Save the Seeds & Replant (Optional)
While it is not a must, it’s always wise to leave one or two growing plants as propagators. Meaning, you won’t use the pods for consumption but for planting again later.
Here, you will need the peas to mature completely. They should be dry enough. If the pods look green or reddish, it is still not ready.
These plants you’re leaving for seeding mustn’t be watered like the rest. They should stay a bit drier than the ones you’re consuming the beans from. This is to prevent unwanted leaves and quicken up the drying of the pods.
If you’re feeling like replanting, you can save the roots of these plants as well. Store them in a frost-free place (soil) and replant in the next Spring or Summer following the same basics.
Follow the same path with the seeds. Store them for the ideal season and then sow them as needed. Use our above tips for that.
Once you start seeing the black-eyed peas growing in your backyard, you will be utterly proud of your effort and time. Even though it’s not much effort or time to spend, you’ll appreciate the experience a lot.
We hope this guide was enough for that. As long as you follow our advice and tips, growing black eyed peas won’t be much of a problem. And more importantly, it will be way more satisfying.
So, what are you waiting for? Your backyard is waiting to give those bean plants a new home. Get your hands dirty and grow them right away!