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July 11, 2011

When to plant cowpeas?

Right now! In Florida, zone 9, we can plant cowpeas from mid-March to mid-September. Southern and Northern Florida gardeners will have to adjust their schedules accordingly.

Cowpeas are excellent source of green beans as well as a cover crop, the plant that can be dug in or tilled into the ground to make "green manure". They are also invaluable as a crop rotation plant, especially to be a successor plant after tomatoes or peppers. I just pulled some tomato plants that finished producing, dug in the mulch that was around the plants and raked the soil to make the bed level and fine:

I usually plant my cowpeas straight from the grocery store bag, but I saw these seeds at Lowes, purple hull variety, and decided to give them a try because they look so pretty.

Make indentation rows in the soil using the rake, something like six inches apart. If there was no rain, sprinkle some water over the bed to thoroughly wet the ground.  Then place seeds into the rows three inches from each other:

Using the same rake, cover the seeds with soil and you are done!

Cowpeas do not need support because they will grab on each other. I put a bamboo stake in the middle of the bed just to mark cowpea variety, otherwise I would not even bother. Keep them watered every day until they come up, and then every day, again (if there is no rain) until they are about a foot tall. After that they will shade the ground well enough to need watering once a week if there is no rain. 

Cowpeas grow very fast; pictured above are grocery store cowpeas seeded just five days ago.

I planted an approximately three by four feet section of the bed and it took the whole package of cowpeas (28 grams). But I expect at least five pounds of green beans from that planting, as well as some seeds for the future plantings. Cowpeas are very productive, plant some now.


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