How to Plant Pigeon Pea

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Pigeon peas are similar to the common English garden pea.
Pigeon peas are similar to the common English garden pea. (Image: Kathy Collins/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) is a frost-tender annual in the legume family. The pods are similar in shape and color to the familiar English pea. In the West Indies, the pigeon pea is an important food source for people and live stock. Pigeon peas grow 3 to 10 feet tall and produce clusters of pods on each stem. This deep-rooted legume can survive in semi-arid conditions but will produce better with frequent irrigation.

Prepare the garden bed. Turn over the top 8 to 12 inches of soil, using a garden fork or rototiller. Clear away all weeds, roots and other plant material. Select a location that gets at least six hours of sun per day.

Plant the pea seeds 1 to 2 inches deep and 3 to 4 inches apart. Plant pigeon seeds when the soil temperature warms to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit and all chance of frost has past.

Soak the area around each seed to a depth of 2 inches within six hours of planting. Keep the soil around the seeds damp with frequent light applications of water until they germinate and sprout.

Remove weeds by hand as they emerge. Pigeon peas do not compete well with weeds.

Thin the seedlings when they are 2 inches tall so that there are 12 to 18 inches between plants. Pigeon peas require about 140 frost-free days to reach maturity when planted from seed.

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