Sometimes better known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a member of the legume family but neither a bean nor a pea. They are a great addition to any home garden because they are highly nutritious and a great source of protein and many other essential vitamins and minerals not common in most vegetables. Plus, who doesn’t love the idea of making homemade hummus with chickpeas right out of the garden? Here’s how to grow chickpeas.
WHEN TO GROW
Chickpeas need about 100 days to mature. They are frost tolerant but cold temperatures should be avoided. Direct sow chickpea seeds 1-2 weeks prior to the last frost date for your area. If necessary, start them indoors 4 weeks before the last frost and transfer outside only once the danger of frost has passed.
WHERE TO GROW
Chickpeas are best grown where temperatures range from 70° F-80° F during the day and don’t drop below 65° F very often at night. Grow chickpeas in full sun in cooler climates, but provide some shade in hotter areas or the hottest parts of summer. Chickpeas can also be grown in containers that are at least 10 inches across, but since you’ll need at least 7-8 plants per person for a decent yield, this may make container growing impractical.
Companion plant chickpeas with potatoes, cucumbers, corn, celery, strawberry and summer savory. Avoid planting with garlic.
BEST SOIL FOR GROWING CHICKPEAS
Chickpeas should be grown in loose, fertile soil. Be sure the soil drains well and has a pH of about 6.5. Fortify with lots of organic matter, like mature compost and aged manure before planting.
Chickpeas do not transplant well and are best if directly sown into your garden bed. If you must get a head start on the growing season, use biodegradable pots so you won’t disturb their delicate root systems when transplanting.
Sow seeds about 1 – 2 inches deep and 3 inches apart. Plant 3 seeds per starter pot and then thin to the strongest one once they begin to grow. Thin direct sown seedlings to 6 inches apart. Rows should be spaced 18-24 inches apart.
Transplant seedlings outdoors when they are 3-4 inches tall and the danger of frost has passed. Chickpea seedlings should be protected from any late, unexpected frosts with row covers.
Chickpeas should be planted close enough together to support each other.
WATERING & CARE
Water regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. Back off watering as the pods begin to dry out. Do not over water and avoid overhead watering, which can attract mildew and other diseases.
Cultivate very carefully by hand weeding. Chickpea roots are close to the surface of the soil and very delicate. Best to use mulch to keep weeds down. Mulch also helps keep the soil moist.
Chickpeas do fine without fertilizer if planted in fertile soil. However, they may benefit from a feeding or two of compost tea or organic fertilizer. Legumes such as chickpeas fix their own nitrogen into the soil. For this reason, stir clear of high nitrogen fertilizers.
Chickpeas can be picked when still green for fresh eating or once the pods have dried out and prepared similarly to beans. Harvest the entire plant once the leaves wither and turn brown. Allow the pods to dry in the sun and collect all seeds as the pods split. Mature pods will be about 1-2 inches with 2-3 pods each.
TIPS & ADVICE
Chickpeas can be susceptible to infestation and disease. Plant disease-resistant varieties and keep an eye out for aphids, mites, beetles and leafhoppers. Use organic pest control techniques, such as natural sprays. Keep the garden clean and clear of debris. Often the best method is close attention and hand picking.
Practice strict crop rotation and companion planting with chickpeas.
Have tips or questions on how to grow chickpeas? Let us know in the comment section below.