Pisum sativum (75 days) Open-pollinated. Also called Tall Telephone. All-America winner Mr. Big got the hype, but failed to supplant this old-time favorite as our #1 tall pea. In our trial, Alderman topped Mr. Big in peas per pod, 7.65–6.94, in yield 38–28 lb per 100 row feet, and in flavor. Alderman boasts vines of 5–6' or more under fertile conditions; needs strong staking and frequent picking. Please note: The pods of this old-fashioned pea start out flat like a snow peas, however they are not edible. Wait for the peas to fill out pods and then shell them. Introduced by renowned pea breeder Thomas Laxton around 1891 and first sold by Burpee in 1901. Resistant to W. ③
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2 oz packet sows 25 ft; 1 lb, 200 ft. Avg 160 seeds/2 oz pkt.
All peas are open-pollinated.
Days to maturity are from direct seeding.
Culture: Sow as early as ground can be worked for best yields. Minimum soil temperature for pea seed germination: 40°. Optimal range 50–75°. Peas are legumes with moderate fertility requirements. Avoid excess nitrogen: they can fix their own. Use Legume Inoculant at planting. They prefer cool, moist weather and dislike dry heat. All peas produce more when staked; varieties over 2½' must be supported. Use either Trellis Netting or chicken wire. Install support at planting time to avoid disturbing seedlings. Plant 8–10 seeds/ft on each side of supports in double rows. Set supports for rows 3' apart (5' if very tall varieties).
Young plants are very hardy but frost stops production at the blossom or pod stage. If you love peas as much as we do, try for a second crop in the fall. Timing is crucial, as peas ripen slowly in the cool of September, and frost will halt production. We recommend planting the first two weeks of July for a fall crop in central Maine. Warmer areas try later July. If the summer is hot, cool the soil with a hay mulch in advance of planting, or shade peas with tall crops to hold in soil moisture.
Peas are 25% sucrose by weight and lose nearly half their sugars within 6 hours at room temperature. That’s why they taste best grazed right off the vine. Keep cool and shell as soon as possible after picking for freezing.
Not well adapted to southern climates where the spring heats up too quickly. Pam Dawling in Virginia has great success with Sugar Ann but cannot grow the tall longer-season Sugarsnap in her climate. Smooth-seeded peas germinate better in colder soils than wrinkle-seeded peas, but are not as sweet. Dawling suggests that forsythia flowering signals time to sow snap and snow peas.
Saving Seed: Saving pea seed is easy! Leave pods of spring-planted peas on the vine to dry. Hand shell, or stomp pods on a tarp. To ensure true-to-type seed, separate pea varieties by 30 feet.
CTV: Curly Top Virus
PM: Powdery Mildew
DM: Downy Mildew
PPR: Pythium Root rot
PSV: Pea Streak Virus
PEMV: Pea Enation Mosaic Virus
W: Common Wilt race 1
Powdery mildew looks like someone sprinkled talcum powder over the vines. It spreads rapidly when picking occurs in hot dry weather. Pick in early morning while the dew is still on the foliage to slow its spread and ensure best flavor. Fusarium causes vines to dry out, yellow, then brown and die. As a preventive, always sow peas on well-drained soil. Fusarium-infested soils are said to be pea sick. Do not save seed from plants afflicted with fusarium, which can be seed-borne. Rotate out of legumes for at least 4 years. Brassicas, especially mustards, are good disease-suppressant successions.
Off-types in peas continue to be a problem across the industry. Over the past several years we have eliminated some old favorites that got beyond the bounds of what is acceptable and added several more reliable varieties. We’ll keep working at it!
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.