How to Grow Black Eyed Peas

Black-eyed peas are an important food crop in Africa and the southern parts of the United States. A subspecies of cowpeas, they are primarily white with a single black spot, which gives rise to their common name. While black-eyed peas are not a hardy plant, they are pretty easy to grow given the proper climate and conditions. Here you will find some easy steps on how to grow black eyed peas of your own.

Black-eyed peas come in both bush and vine varieties (determinate or indeterminate). Bush varieties can be easier to care for but can take up more space. Vine types need a trellis or stakes to keep their vines off of the ground.

Plan for about 80-100 days of warm weather in order to grow black-eyed peas to maturity. They should be planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. Soil temperatures should be at least 65° F for proper germination.

Black-eyed peas will not tolerate cold or frost. They do best in warm weather climates like the American south. They should be grown in light shade. They’ll tolerate full sun, but will need more frequent watering. If you’re trying to grow the in a more temperate climate, full sun is probably needed to be successful.

If growing indeterminate varieties, you’ll want to plant them next to a trellis in order to keep the vines off the ground. Do not plant where other legumes have grown the past 3 years. Black-eyed peas grow well with cucumbers and strawberries but avoid planting with any type of onions or garlic.

Black-eyed peas can also be grown in containers but because you’ll need several plants per person for a plentiful harvest, this may not be worthwhile.

Plant black-eyed peas in sandy, fertile soil that drains well. Add lots of mature compost prior to planting. Test the soil to ensure it has a neutral to slightly acidic pH (5.5 – 6.8).

Direct sow black-eyed peas into your garden once the danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures reach 65° F. Use black plastic mulch to warm the soil if necessary. Sow seeds for your particular variety as instructed on the seed packet, usually about 1 ½ inches deep. Bush varieties tend to need a little more space between plants. In general you’ll sow or thin to about 3-4 inches between plants. Seeds will need 7-10 days to germinate.

Black-eyed peas are not recommended for transplanting.

Black-eyed peas will need regular watering when rainfall is not sufficient. Frequent, light waterings are best during dry spells. Try to keep the soil moist and the leaves dry; wet foliage can lead to mildew and other fungal diseases.

Black-eyed peas will benefit greatly from a feeding of compost tea or an organic fertilizer after seedlings emerge and monthly throughout the growing season. Avoid fertilizers that contain nitrogen as legumes like black-eyed peas already fix nitrogen into the soil and too much can be a problem.

Black-eyed pea leaves can be harvested for use in salad or prepared similarly to spinach. Tender, young leaves are the best. Be careful not to harvest too much throughout the season or your pods may suffer.

Black-eyed pea pods can be harvested when still green or after they dry out. Green pods can be eaten and prepared similarly to snap peas. Harvest green pods when still young. Black-eyed peas are most commonly prepared like beans. For this method, harvest these pods when they have dried out, late in the growing season.

Keep an eye out for aphids, leafhoppers, mites, and beetles. Handpick and blast them off with water. Organic sprays can help too. Keep a clean, tidy garden. If your plants are healthy and well looked after they will be less susceptible to pests.

Legumes naturally fix nitrogen out of the air and convert it into food. For this reason, they generally do not need fertilizing. However, inoculant powders have been developed to aid in this process. Find an inoculant designed specifically for black-eyed peas (or labeled for cowpeas), though general legume inoculant can work too. Follow the instructions – you’ll either mix the powder in with the soil when you plant or coat dampened seeds in it before sowing them into the soil.

If the weather becomes wet around harvest time of fully mature pods, bring them indoors still attached to the vine to let them dry out.

Do you have questions or tips on how to grow black eyed peas? Let us know in the comments section below.

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