Anjali’s Pigeon peas

In early February this year Anjali planted pigeon peas and has shared the pictures of their development with us.

The pigeon pea is a short lived perennial legume that can be grown for food and as a green manure crop to to improve soil structure.

The cultivation of the pigeon pea goes back at least 3,500 years and is thought to origininate in peninsular India.

The seeds have become a common grain food in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Pigeon peas are rich in protein, dietary fibre, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus as well as potassium.

This is another growing guide dedicated to 2016 International Year of Pulses.

Growth habits and planting needs

Pigeon peas are planted in early Spring when the soil warms.

Choose a site that gets full sun as this is important for pod development. Pigeon peas grow well and are tolerant of hot conditions. Optimal temperature for growth is between         18º-30º C  but it can grow well even in temperatures above 35º C.

The pigeon pea can grow in a wide range of soil types as long as they are free draining. It prefers the the soil pH to be in the range of 5.0-7.0 but will tolerate a little either side of this.

The pigeon pea follows root crops in the crop rotation system and replenishes the soil with nitrogen for leaf crops to follow.

Pigeon Peas are drought tolerant and do not tolerate being water logged, so make sure that the bed has good drainage. The pigeon pea has an extensive root system and its deep-rooting taproot reaches up to 2 m in depth. This deep rooting system helps to improve the tilth of the soil and water infiltration into the soil and in doing so improves soil structure. It regenerates soil fertility and like other legumes fixes nitrogen in the soil. The Pigeon pea, like the chickpea has the “unique ability to access insoluble phosphates in phosphate-poor soil, and increase the pool of available phosphate for succeeding       crops.” (1)

Before planting soak the seeds overnight

Plant seeds 1 inch deep and 12 inches apart for best results. Plants will germinate in 10 to 15 days, and pods will appear in four months. The plants are slow growing in the early months.

For good pod development make sure that the peas are well watered and mulch to retain moisture in the soil.


Early varieties may flower at 90–320 days after planting, while Late varieties flower at 175–430 days after planting.

Pigeon peas crop heavily with the seed pods growing on the ends of the branches. Pods can be picked fresh for and eaten like green peas or left on the tree until they are dry and eaten like other dried peas or lentils.

After harvesting prune the plants and this stimulate new growth. Use the prunings to improve your compost. When the plant dies cut back at the base and leave the roots in the soil where they will decompose and release their nitrogen for the following crops.

A pictorial history of the growth of Anjali’s pigeon peas

Whilst originally germinated in a garden bed Ahjali had to transplant her peas to pots. In spite of this the plants have developed well and flourished. Here are some pictures of the development of this useful plant.

IMG_20160213_094013-Pigeon peas 1
Peas have emerged in Mid February
IMG_20160305_081423-Pigeon peas 3
Peas in early March

IMG_20160305_081437-Pigeon peas 3

20160518_080916_Pigeon pea flower
Pigeon pea flowers in late May
20160518_080916_pidgeon pea in pot 2
The pigeon peas with pods and flowers in late May
20160524_082608_pigeon peas in pot 1
Pigeon peas grown successfully in a pot laden with good sized pods
20160524_082623_pigeon peas2
Pea plant in late May with the pea seeds developing well


  1. Joji J., N. Ae, K. Okada, C. Johansen. 1990. Improvement of Soil Productivity Through Legume-Based Cropping Systems in Indian Alfisols and Vertisols under Semi-arid Environments in Soil Constraints on Sustainable Plant Production in the Tropics. Tropical Agriculture Research Series. Japan.


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