How to Use Oats as a Pea Trellis
The first thing you need to know about growing peas is that they are climbers (much like my nearly 2 year old son). Not long after the plants begin to grow they need send out tendrils. These tendrils will grap onto anything close by and wrap themselves around whatever it is. Now some varieties of peas will say no stalking or trellis needed. But peas are easier to harvest and do best when they have something to climb. Certain varieties grow up anywhere from 6 to 10 feet talk without support they will just topple over at some point.
Last season I was looking for different options for providing support for my peas. I wanted something cheap. Who wants to spend a bunch of money and time investing in a fancy support system for something that will only be around for a couple months each year. I was browsing the Sustainable Seed Company website. I was looking at pea seeds, when I read something that changed my life (at least the gardening portion thereof). There was a tip at the bottom of the page that said I could use oats as a living trellis for the peas same as Native Americans did with corn and pole beans. I thought this was a genius of an idea. I would need to buy a pack of seeds. Plus in the end I would have a crop of oats that produce biomass for my garden as well as be feed for my ducks. Talk about a win-win.
So how did it turn out? Results were not as good as I was hoping for. The oats were suppose to grow to 6 feet. Mine only got to maybe 3-4 feet, which was not good enough for my sugar snap and some of my snow peas that grew to 6 or more feet. The crop was slow going. We had a really wet spring last year, so I don’t know if over watering was a problem. Some of the plants feel over and what didn’t I was able to add a couple stakes I had and some string to make a quick support. The shorter growing shell peas (wando and green arrow) both were fully supported by the oats. The idea still worked to a degree just needed some fine tuning for this season.
Plan for the 2014 Season
1. This year I looked more closely at the height of the peas I was going to grow. I mainly picked peas that could grow without support. I still think there is advantage to have something for them to climb.
2. I wanted to try to give the oats a head start by planting them first and give them time to grow. Since we had a really cold winter, I got a later start that I would hope for, so I just planted them together again this year.
3. I am experimenting with different spacing. I planted some peas and oats closer together and some further apart.
I encourage you to give this method a try.