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How To Develop and Look after Black-Eyed Pea Vegetation

Cowpeas have a protracted historical past and are beloved in lots of cultures. They originated in Africa, and within the southern US, it’s mentioned they create good luck should you eat them on New 12 months’s Day! Whether or not you eat them for luck or for taste, chances are you’ll need to plant this wholesome crop in your backyard.

These drought-tolerant “peas” are a sun-loving crop you’ll be able to develop by way of the summer season. They’ll add nitrogen to your soil and produce beans all summer season lengthy. There are completely different varieties to select from, so be happy to experiment to determine which sort you want greatest!

Let’s check out tips on how to develop cowpeas so you’ll be able to add them to your backyard!

Fast Care Information

Widespread Identify(s) Cowpeas, black-eyed pea, crowder peas, southern peas, subject peas
Scientific Identify Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata
Days to Harvest 80+ days
Gentle 6+ hours of full solar
Water At the very least 1 inch per week
Soil Effectively-draining, fertile soil with a pH of 6.0+
Fertilizer Usually pointless, or 5-10-10
Pests Aphids, bean leaf beetles, cornstalk borers, cowpea curculios, inexperienced stink bugs, Mexican bean beetles, root knot nematodes, weevils
Ailments Bacterial canker, cercospora leaf spot, cowpea mosaic virus, fusarium wilt, powdery mildew, rust

All About Cowpeas

Close-up of a Vigna unguiculata plant in the garden. The plant climbs with its vines along the constructed trellises. The plant has large oval dark green leaves with pointed tips and long narrow green pods that contain 10-15 small seeds.
Cowpeas are beans are grown worldwide, primarily used for his or her seeds and for bettering soil well being.

You most likely know Vigna unguiculata subsp. unguiculata as cowpeas or black-eyed peas. They’re truly beans – not peas – however most different nicknames for this plant confer with them as peas. They have been first grown in west Africa however at the moment are grown in lots of locations all through the world. Within the US, they’re related to the southern states as a result of they want a protracted, heat rising season.

Cowpeas are available bush and vine varieties. Bush vegetation usually develop 1-2 toes tall, and vining varieties can attain round 3 toes. Bean pods develop in clusters of 2-3 and might attain as much as 10 inches lengthy. The pods can are available quite a lot of colours, together with inexperienced, purple, or yellow. 

The kidney-shaped beans will be white, cream, inexperienced, black, or red-brown, or a mixture of these colours. They usually have a darker coloration within the center to create a watch, therefore the “black-eyed pea” identify.

Cowpeas are a southern pea normally grown for the seeds, however the pods and leaves may also be cooked and eaten. They’re additionally grown in summer season cowl crop mixtures to enhance soil well being and soil tilth, or they’re grown as fodder for animals. Worldwide manufacturing of cowpea varieties tops out at hundreds of thousands of tons yearly.

Forms of Cowpeas

Close-up of the ripening pods of the cowpea plant in the garden. The plant has climbing vines with large oval green leaves. The pods are long, thin, green.
Vigna unguiculata has edible catjang and yardlong bean varieties, together with subsp. textilis.

Vigna unguiculata incorporates just a few completely different forms of beans. Subsp. biflora is catjang or sow-pea, which is thought for its shrubby progress behavior. Although it’s usually grown as fodder for animals, it’s edible and scrumptious. These beans are additionally helpful as cowl crops.

Subsp. sesquipedalis is called the yardlong bean, asparagus bean, and Chinese language long-bean. It will get its identify from being lengthy; pods can develop as much as 3 toes, though they’re normally 1.5 toes. This selection is believed to have originated from southeast Asia.

The cowpea cultivar subsp. textilis isn’t as well-liked lately, nevertheless it was as soon as used for its fibers to make rope and materials. These beans may also be nice cowl crops for bettering soil well being and weed management too. 

Planting Cowpeas

Close-up of small sprouts of a cowpea plant growing in moist soil. The sprouts have vertical thin pale green stems with two tiny oval smooth green leaves.
Plant cowpea seeds outdoor in heat, well-draining soil with direct daylight, 1-2 inches deep.

Cowpeas want heat climate and don’t transplant properly, so that you’ll must sow dried peas exterior after the hazard of frost has handed and the soil temperature is persistently above 65°F. The time of yr on your cowpea planting will range relying on the place you reside, however it’s going to probably be between April and June.

The video above walks by way of a number of strategies of rising beans vertically.

Plant your cowpea seed in an space with well-draining soil that can get direct daylight for at the least 6 hours. Plant the seeds with the attention dealing with down 1-2 inches deep with not more than 8 vegetation per 1 foot in a row and 30 inches between rows. Cowpeas develop properly in containers with trellises, so that you’re not simply restricted to the bottom!

A cowpea planting that features succession planting will can help you get a continuing harvest slightly than getting most of your beans directly.

Plant seeds exterior each two weeks in the course of the planting season so you’ll be able to stagger the vegetation. You’ll be able to interplant them amongst different crops which might be good companions, like pearl millet or wheat.

Caring For Cowpeas

Cowpeas develop fairly simply should you give them sufficient daylight. Let’s have a look at how one can make these “peas” completely happy and have fast progress!

Solar and Temperature

Close-up of a growing cowpea plant in a sunny garden. The bushes are lush, have climbing vines covered with large oval green leaves with oblong narrowed tips. The pods are long, narrow, green and contain about 10 small edible seeds.
Cowpeas want heat climate and 6-8 hours of direct daylight.

Like different beans, cowpeas want a lot of sunny climate and solely develop within the heat season. They are often grown in USDA zones 5-10 and might solely be grown as perennials in zones 7-10.

They want a naked minimal of 6 hours of direct mild, however should you can present them with 8 hours or extra, you’ll get higher outcomes and better yields.

Soil temperatures ought to be 65°F or hotter, however keep away from letting it get too scorching, or the vegetation gained’t set pods anymore. If the soil temperature goes over 90°F, think about using a shade fabric in the course of the hottest a part of the day.

Water and Humidity

A close-up of a growing cowpea plant in a garden, climbing a trellis. The plant has climbing vines with large, oval, dark green leaves with pointed tips. The soil is moist at the base of the plant.
To advertise deep root progress, water cowpeas when the soil is dry.

Cowpeas want slightly larger moisture than some crops do, with at the least 1 inch of water per week, and can probably want extra on hotter days. Water your cowpeas when the soil is dry, and provides them an excellent soak to encourage deep root progress. 

Keep away from getting their leaves moist or letting the water kind puddles to forestall illnesses. Make sure to monitor the soil moisture of your crops so the vegetation don’t get too moist or dry.


Close-up of young Cowpea sprouts growing in the garden. The plant has short stems and large oval smooth leaves with pointed tips. The soil is dark brown, loose.
Cowpea vegetation require impartial or barely alkaline soil that’s well-draining and nutrient-rich.

Cowpea vegetation like nutrient-rich soil with a impartial or barely alkaline pH. Make sure that the soil has a pH of 6.0 or larger, or your cowpea plant gained’t be pleased with the acidity.

The soil must be well-draining, so it gained’t dangle onto an excessive amount of moisture. Loamy or barely sandy soil will work properly for cowpeas.

For those who can present your vegetation with loads of natural supplies, like compost, from the beginning, chances are you’ll not must fertilize your vegetation in any respect.

Fertilizing Cowpeas

Close-up of young Cowpea sprouts growing in two rows near a trellis in a garden. The plant has erect stems with medium oval smooth leaves of bright green color. The soil is strewn with small black fertilizer granules.
Restrict nitrogen fertilizer on cowpeas, as this could result in extra leaves and fewer beans.

Cowpeas are nitrogen-fixing, that means they create nitrogen and return it to the soil. For those who fertilize your cowpeas, keep away from giving them an excessive amount of nitrogen, or they’ll develop too many leaves and never sufficient beans!

As talked about within the final part, chances are you’ll not must fertilize your vegetation in any respect if there are sufficient vitamins within the soil from natural matter. In case your soil lacks vitamins, nonetheless, you’ll be able to feed your vegetation an all-purpose fertilizer that’s low in nitrogen, like a 5-10-10 or 3-5-5 fertilizer. You’ll most likely solely must fertilize them as soon as after they’re younger since they aren’t heavy feeders.

Pruning & Coaching Cowpeas

Close-up of young Cowpea bushes growing near the trellis in the garden. The bushes are low, lush, have large, oval green leaves with pointed tips. The soil is covered with straw mulch.
You’ll be able to take away broken components of cowpea vegetation and assist vining cowpeas with trellises.

Pruning isn’t crucial for cowpeas, however you’ll be able to take away broken or diseased leaves and stems. If leaves are touching the bottom and look sickly, eradicating them will stop the illness from spreading.

Vining cowpeas will should be supported by a trellis or different type of assist. Bush varieties also can profit from a trellis, however they gained’t want it just like the vining sorts do.

Cowpea Propagation

Cowpea Propagation. Close-up of small Cowpea sprouts in a black plastic seed starter tray. The sprouts are small, have short pale green stems with oval dark green smooth leaves.
Cowpeas are usually grown as annuals, and planting seeds is the best propagation technique.

The tried-and-true technique of planting cowpea seeds is de facto the one propagation technique you’ll want, particularly since they’re usually grown as annual vegetation in most areas. Enable just a few pods to dry on the plant. Harvest the dried seeds and save them to plant subsequent yr.

Harvesting and Storing Cowpeas

Now, for the necessary half: getting the cowpeas onto your plate! There are just a few alternative ways you’ll be able to harvest and retailer your beans (or peas).

Harvesting Cowpeas

Close-up of a male hand plucking the pods of Cowpea leguminous plants against a blurred background of a sunny garden. Pods are thin, long, green, contain 10-15 small edible seeds.
Harvest cowpeas when the pods are 6-10 inches lengthy, both immature or dry.

You’ll be able to select to reap inexperienced pods (which are literally immature pods) or wait till all of the beans are dry on the plant. You possibly can even harvest someplace in between.

Cowpeas are prepared when the pods are 6-10 inches lengthy, agency, and inexperienced. You’ll be able to decide the pods proper off the plant or reduce them with scissors.

If you wish to wait till the beans are dry, you’ll be able to go away them on the plant till each pod is dried. Then, reduce the plant on the base and dangle the plant the other way up for just a few days to verify they’re undoubtedly dry. Take away the seeds from the seed pods and retailer them.

Storing Cowpeas

Top view, closeup of cowpeas seeds in a large wooden box. Seeds are firm, oval, cream-colored with a smooth shiny surface and with a black halo on each seed.
Retailer dried cowpeas in an hermetic container in a cool, dry place.

Dried beans (technically dry seed) ought to be saved in an hermetic container in a cool, dry place. Make sure that moisture can’t get to the beans, otherwise you’ll threat getting them moldy.

For those who decide the pods whereas they’re inexperienced, you’ll be able to retailer them in containers or freezer luggage within the freezer for just a few months. Make sure that the beans don’t have extra moisture on them so that they gained’t flip into an ice block. It’s also possible to retailer cooked cowpeas in an identical method and they need to additionally be capable of final for just a few months.


You’ll have some issues whereas rising cowpeas, so let’s discuss them! Lots of them will be prevented if you recognize what to look out for.

Rising Issues

Vigna unguiculata on agricultural land. Close-up of a young plant with large, elongated, oval, bright green leaves with smooth edges. The leaves have small pale green and brownish spots.
Verify soil temperature, regulate moisture ranges, and keep away from extra nitrogen from earlier crops.

There are numerous the reason why your cowpea vegetation don’t produce pods. First, examine the soil temperature. Temperatures beneath 65°F or above 90°F aren’t very best and are more likely to trigger the vegetation to cease producing pods. Frost covers and shade covers can assist you appropriate the temperatures. 

If the soil temperature isn’t the issue, examine the water state of affairs. Soil that’s too dry or moist could cause many issues and stress out the plant. Modify moisture ranges as wanted.

An excessive amount of nitrogen may very well be an issue should you’ve grown legumes in the identical spot as cowpeas inside the final three years or should you gave your vegetation an excessive amount of fertilizer this yr. You’ll be able to absorb nitrogen by planting leafy greens between your beans and including a layer of wooden chip mulch. Rotate your beans with different crops annually to forestall nitrogen from build up.


Close-up of a Mexican bean beetle on a leaf, against a blurred green background. The Mexican bean bug is a small, yellowish-orange beetle with black spots and long, spiny legs that feeds on leguminous plants.
Mexican bean beetles are a typical pest that may harm and destroy bean vegetation.

The commonest pest discovered on cowpeas is the cowpea curculio. Adults feed on pods and seeds, which break the crops. In addition they lay their eggs contained in the pods, and the larvae will eat their method out. 

Prevention is vital – do away with the adults earlier than they lay eggs! It’s widespread to spray pesticides as a preventative measure. For a pure method, strive eradicating them by hand or spraying neem oil to suffocate them. Encourage helpful bugs that eat the curculio (like tachinid flies) by planting yarrow, asters, feverfew, and oxeye daisy. 

Different pests you would possibly encounter prefer to suck sap from leaves, stems, and pods. Mexican bean beetles and bean leaf beetles are more likely to be round for the legumes, whereas aphids and inexperienced stink bugs will probably be attracted by different vegetation however feast on cowpeas simply because they will.

Most of those pests can simply be eliminated with water or by hand, and neem oil can also be fairly efficient. It’s also possible to search for pesticides that can goal particular pests.

Cornstalk borers will solely be current should you even have corn planted, so planting cowpeas and corn away from one another will assist. Weevils are solely a storage downside and will be prevented by utilizing an hermetic container.

Disadvantageous nematodes trigger nodules on roots and yellowing and wilting foliage. Helpful nematodes will be added to the soil to kill the nematodes. It’s also possible to take away roots from outdated vegetation and add natural matter to the soil to assist cut back the inhabitants.


Close-up of leaves of a Cowpea plant affected by mosaic virus in a garden. The leaves are large, elongated, oval in shape, with pointed tips. Dark green leaves with yellow-green mottling
The mosaic virus could cause stunted progress and decreased yields in cowpeas vegetation.

Most illnesses cowpeas get can’t be reversed, however they are often prevented. As soon as a plant is diseased, it’s greatest to take away the plant to forestall it from spreading. You’ll be able to stop fungal illnesses with a fungicide spray and forestall most illnesses by conserving the pest inhabitants below management.

Widespread illnesses that may simply be recognized on the leaves are powdery mildew (white powder), rust fungus (red-brown spots), cercospora leaf spot (brown spots), and mosaic virus (mottled yellow and inexperienced leaves). Fusarium wilt seems just like the plant is dying with wilted crunchy leaves. This could trigger root rot in your crowder pea crops.

Bacterial canker is a goopy-looking lump generally discovered on fruit timber, however can typically seem on a cowpea plant. Southern stem blight is a fungus that assaults the stem just under the soil line and also can have an effect on each a part of the plant that touches the soil.

Often Requested Questions

Q: What’s the distinction between cowpeas and black-eyed peas?

A: Black-eyed peas are cowpeas, and are referred to as that as a result of they appear like they’ve a black eye. Nevertheless, not each cowpea is a black-eyed pea since some are one strong coloration.

Q: What are cowpeas used for?

A: Cowpeas are utilized in cooking or as animal fodder.

Q: Why are they referred to as cowpeas?

A: It’s believed that they earned their identify as a result of them usually being grown to feed cows and so they have been used as early as 1798!

Q: Are cowpeas edible?

A: Sure! The seeds, pods, and leaves are edible, however you’ll need to prepare dinner the leaves first.

Q: What do cowpeas style like?

A: Cowpeas have an earthy taste that’s a bit nutty.

Q: What’s the distinction between cowpeas and peas?

A: Cowpeas are literally beans, and beans and peas are each legumes, so that they share many similarities.

Q: Are cowpeas and subject peas the identical?

A: Subject peas are simply one other identify for cowpeas.

Q: Do cowpeas add nitrogen to soil?

A: Cowpeas are a legume, so that they add nitrogen to the soil. They can be utilized as a canopy crop to enhance soil high quality and cut back weed stress.



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