A Pea Scheme For Minibeds

Dateline: 26 January 2017

Pea roots from my 2016 garden.
Notice the nitrogen-fixing nodules.

A 'scheme' is defined as "a systematic plan of action." I am now in the process of developing numerous schemes for my Minibeds-on-Plastic experimental garden. My pea scheme will be one of the first experiments. 

Pea seeds are planted as early in the spring as the soil can be worked. They are planted long before warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, and corn.

And one of the great things about peas (besides the peas themselves) is that they develop nitrogen-fixing nodules on their roots. If the nodules in the picture above are not clear, here is a closer look at nitrogen-fixing nodules...

If pea roots are left in the soil after the pea crop is harvested, the nitrogen in those roots is released into the soil. They become fertilizer for other plants.

In the picture at the top of this page, a whole bed of pea roots like you see were left in the soil. I just cut off the top of the plants. And then I planted the bed to garlic. That was in the fall. This spring, the growing garlic will have a reservoir of readily-available, natural nitrogen, which is something that young garlic plants can really benefit from.

So, with all of that in mind, my pea scheme for minibeds is to plant peas around the inside perimeter of numerous beds as soon as the soil can be worked. That will amount to a 9' row of peas in each bed.

I will use the proper inoculant to make sure the pea roots get the bacteria they need for maximum nodule development. Yes, the inoculant really does make a difference.

By planting only the perimeter of the beds, the middle ground will be open. After the weather warms up, and it is time to plant tomatoes, summer squash, peppers, etc. I will move the pea plant tops away from the center of the beds and plant the summer crops. 

When the pea plants are no longer producing, I will simply cut the topgrowth away, leaving the roots in the soil. Thus, the new plantings will receive the fertilizing benefit of the nitrogen in the nodules.

Will this scheme work like I think it will? Well, that's what I'm going to find out. Stay tuned...


If you are not familiar with my Minibeds-on-Plastic gardening idea, click here now: Minibeds-on-Plastic Introduction


  1. I can say with certainty that your plan will most likely work, most years. God proved it to me last year! I planted an early crop of peas on a field fence trellis on 8' t-posts. Just as the peas were finishing up, a whole bunch of tomato seedlings popped up. I left a few in good spots and gave away the rest. Shortly after the tomatoes reached full production, pea seedlings started popping up! As the tomatoes slowed down, the peas started bearing! Never dreamed that would be possible in our zone 5 area! To get even more production, underplant the trellised peas with spinach and two plantings of radishes. They will all be done when its time to plant tomatoes. Underplant the tomatoes with basil on the west side and lettuces on the east side. The tomatoes will shade the lettuces from hot summer sun. And if you have tomatoes, you need basil so its handy right there, plus basils aroma will help deter tomato pests. A handy way to get the most out of one trellis...those 8' t-posts aren't fun to move. Then the next year use them for a different type of peas (underplanted with beets and carrots), then follow with pole beans (underplanted with cilantro and borage or chamomile) - that way I only have to move them every other year. Our climate is the same as yours, we are due west of you.
    I have a small 6,000 sq ft market garden.
    One warning though...this sort of succession planting schedule will make your garden planning a nightmare (hehe). When you are planting beets, carrots and the like every two weeks, lettuces/greens every week, spring and fall plantings of peas, cauliflower, cabbage, etc...wow, it gets real complicated fast. Especially when you have to be careful rotating crop families.

  2. Plant Lady—
    Thanks for the ideas. I think I will take your advice on underplanting the tomatoes. I leave my t-post trellis's in place and rotate tomatoes, beans and peas. This year I'm going to grow small butternut squashes and some melons on the trellis structures.

    My garden is 4,200 SF, but that includes my raspberry rows. You have a lot to take care of!

  3. Luckily, I love to grow things, because we are adding 266'x 40' (10,640 sq. ft.) for the new "permanent" foods garden. Have 100' in the center all worked up and ready to plant first thing in the spring. Will have five rows 100' long for the berries - red and yellow fall raspberries, summer red raspberries, black raspberries and blackberries. Already have more berries than I have room for, got one plant of each about 5 years ago and they spread rampantly. The 60' south of the berries will be asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries. And the 100' north of the berries will be grapes, hops and small fruits - dwarf tart cherries, honeyberries, sea buckthorn, goji berries, blueberries. And have a bunch of older fruit trees and a new orchard - around 30-40 trees, with 8 more on order for this year - we like cider! Made 100 gallons one year. Have Nubian dairy goats and a bunch of chickens - and trying to decide if this will be the year we get hogs. Then there is the forest with roads/firebreaks and paths that need attention, and trees that need to be cut for firewood. Keeps me busy!

    1. That's a beautiful report. Very nice to know. You must be young and/or you have a lot of time to focus on developing and caring for that kind of homestead. I would love to do the same but my home business demands most of my time in the growing season. I can't properly care for a garden less than half that size. So, I'm a little envious. :-) I wish you the very best. P.S. You might want to start a blog and share your story with the world (but that takes a lot of time too).

  4. Thank you Herrick! I am quite young - only 57 (hehe). This homestead is my full-time job - trying desperately to get a mostly self-reliant homestead set up and operating before the economy hits bottom. I plan for my extended family to thrive, rather than just survive, when that happens! I completely agree with your latest post on the economy...we tipped over the edge long ago when the national debt became unpayable.
    We are able to do this since we don't believe in any debt. And I spent 6 years caring for my bipolar MIL with Alzheimers and my 90+ yr old grandfather in our home, so got used to living on one paycheck. My old folks passed on 3 years ago, and I have been outside working ever since. 6 years of literally being trapped in the house to care for our elders gave me time to learn and plan, and built up a big reservoir of gardening energy! And it sort of turned into a paying operation, aside from all the awesome food we eat and store, with going to the farmers market with the excess. Not a living, but enough to pay the property taxes if I hadn't reinvested the proceeds in the operation. That is seriously reassuring!