Southern Peas have both bush and pole types, just like traditional garden beans. Unlike pole green beans, you can grow southern peas that run without a trellis by planting close together and allowing the plants to essentially self-support. This really works best for plantings where you will let the peas dry on the plants for winter storage.
Southern peas need plenty of sunlight to grow properly, so try to choose an area of your garden that receives full sun for your planting site. Unlike regular green beans, southern peas will thrive in the hottest part of summer, so they are a good choice to plant after some of your spring crops have finished. Cowpeas are also very easy to grow, tolerating all kinds of poor soil, though they will thrive in loamy soil.
Cowpeas do not require a vast amount of nutrients, but a light application of fertilizer can help your plants produce a better crop. Use a shovel or trowel to mix the fertilizer into the top 3–4 inches of soil. 10-20-10 fertilizer is slightly richer in phosphorus than in nitrogen or potassium, so it is good for producing a strong crop yield. If you use a fertilizer high in nitrogen, then your plant will grow a lot of leaves but few peas.
Plant each seed about 1 inch deep in the ground. Each seed should also be about 3–6 inches apart and covered lightly with loose soil. If you're planting multiple rows of peas, leave 1–2 feet of room between each row.
Apply mulch to the soil where beans are planted. Standard wood chip mulch or straw works well with Southern Peas. Mulch can prevent the soil from getting too cool or too warm, and it also helps the soil retain moisture.
Sow additional seeds every 2 weeks. You can continue sowing Southern Pea seeds every 2 weeks if you want a continual harvest that lasts all summer and into fall. Stop planting new seeds 10 to 12 weeks before the first expected frost.
Southern Peas/Cowpeas/Field Peas, Vigna unguiculata
Pollination, insect; Life Cycle, annual; Isolation Distance, 20 feet
Southern peas are self-pollinating with perfect flowers. They can cross-pollinate, although it is rare as the flowers are only receptive to pollen for a very short time. To be safe, maintain a distance of 20 feet between variety rows. Leave the pods to dry on the plant, and when you've waited until the majority of pods, if not all, are dry, gently pull out the whole plant. The pods can be delicate and may shatter, so putting the plants directly on a tarp is a good idea. Allow plants to continue to dry out completely in a dry and shady place. Winnow seeds from chaff.