Cowpeas (60 days)
Cowpeas are a foreign vegetable to anyone farther north than Oklahoma. The most widely know of these legumes is the blackeyed pea. Southerners have a tradition of eating of black eyes on New Year’s Day for good luck the rest of the year. Other varieties are crowder peas, cream peas, purple hull peas, and several others.
Cowpeas requite warm to hot weather and have no tolerance for cold or frost. In the south they are one of the last crops planted in the spring, and replace cool weather crops that have been harvested. With enough water most varieties will produce until frost as long as they are harvested often. Peas form in pods and shelling peas is another southern pastime. Shelled peas can be eaten fresh or dried for storage.
An benefit of growing cowpeas and other legumes is their ability to take nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it to natural ammonia nitrogen. To enhance this process seed peas should he treated with a nitrogen fixing inoculant containing species of rhizobia bacteria. The bacteria causes the plants to form nodules on their roots that store extra nitrogen and enhance the available nitrogen content of the soil. Agriculturally they are grown as cover crops by farmers with no interest in the pea crop to replace nitrogen in the soil.
Plant after all danger of frost is past and night temperatures remain above 60 degrees. They need full sun and take lots of heat as long as they are watered. Some varieties grow up to 36 inches high and tend to become quite tangled. The most popular variety is the California Blackeye Number 5 which grows about eighteen inches tall and matures in 80 days.
Plant on hills about twelve inches apart and then thin them as they begin to grow to stand about ten inches apart. Because they take their nitrogen from the atmosphere not, the soil, fertilizing is usually not necessary.
Insects can be a problem in areas with harsh summers because they are one of the few lush crops for them to eat. For grasshoppers and beetles a thorough dusting of Nature's Guide Diatomaceous Earth works well.
Blackeyed Pea Seed