How to Grow Chickpeas

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Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) love cool weather and produce best when the temperature stays between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but plant them in full sun for the best outcome. You don't have too many problems with chickpea pests, only the usual legume lovers -- aphids, mites, leafhoppers and chewing bugs -- and the bushes show a lot of resilience to fungi if you don't disturb the leaves when they're dewy and don't let the soil get waterlogged. Work in a few inches of compost or manure at the start of the season, and you'll have a harvest in about 100 days.

Compost Requirements

  • Till in 2 to 6 inches of plant-based compost after the soil temperature reaches 65 degrees Fahrenheit in spring. If you have poor-draining soil with low fertility, go with the high end of the scale, and add about 5 to 6 inches; if you have sandy loam or otherwise well-draining, fertile soil, add 2 to 3 inches of compost. High-nitrogen chemical fertilizers upset the nitrogen fixation that occurs between the plants and microorganisms in the soil; plant-based compost contributes 2.5-0.5-2.0 NPK, doesn't upset the nitrogen-fixation process and is gentle on the roots. You can also side dress the plants -- keeping the compost 1 inch from the stems -- every 12 weeks, or spray the foliage on both sides once a month with a ready-to-use seaweed extract to boost their growth.

Proper Watering

  • Chickpeas do best in moist soil while growing, needing between 12 and 18 inches of water, total, throughout their 100-day growing cycle. Keeping the soil moist 2 to 3 inches deep suffices; water once a week if you get regular rainfall and twice a week if you live in an arid region. Chickpeas need water most during flowering and pod formation, so don't let the soil dry out at all. Don't use an overhead irrigation system with chickpeas; it can damage pods and flowers, and cultivates Alternaria fungi (Alternaria spp.), such as brown spot (Alternaria alternata), especially if you live in a humid area.

Weeding and Thinning

  • Pull weeds around the chickpea bushes as needed, but don't hoe or disturb the soil deeply; chickpea bushes have fragile, shallow root systems. Thin the chickpeas out with sterilized scissors to 5 to 6 inches apart after they sprout, but don't pull the plants or you'll damage the root system.

Disease Management

  • Fungi love chickpeas for the moist, fertile soil they need to grow. Avoid disturbing the foliage when it's heavy with dew to keep from spreading the spores. Spray the foliage on both sides with 4 tablespoons of 10 percent copper octanoate mixed with 1 gallon of water throughout the growing season; spray every two weeks for maintenance, and once a week if you see spotted foliage or leaf drop. Start spraying copper octanoate two weeks before the rainy season if your area experiences heavy rainfall. If copper octanoate isn't enough to hold off the blights and other fungal diseases, or if you have a history of chronic fungal problems, apply 37 percent mancozeb on the tops and undersides of the leaves when the plants first leaf out for prevention, and again at the first sign of wilting, spotting and dropping. Use a mixture of 3 tablespoons of 37 percent mancozeb with 1 gallon of water when applying. You can use mancozeb up to eight times during the growing season.

Pest Management

  • Chickpeas fall prey to the usual legume lovers -- leafhoppers, aphids, mites and chewing insects regularly feast on the garbanzo bush. Signs of a problem that warrants treatment include numerous chewed leaves and copious amount of honeydew, the sticky excrement of aphids and leafhoppers that causes sooty mold. Start spraying ready-to-use insecticidal soap with 2 percent fatty acids on both sides of the leaves once a week at the first signs of damage. If insecticidal soap doesn't provide enough relief, add neem oil to your pest-management program. Neem oil, a low-toxicity, organic pesticide, contains 0.9 azadirachtin; spray ready-to-use 0.9 percent neem oil two to three times a day once a week, as needed.

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