Southern Peas & Asparagus Long Beans

While different from true beans or peas, these summer-hardy legumes nonetheless add nitrogen to the soil, and are high sources of vegetable iron and folate. I like filling in all empty space with peas and beans because they act as a living or “green” mulch that replenishes the soil, conserves water, and prevents weeds.

Red Zipper Southern Peas. Young pods are edible. When mature, shell the beans for soup.
Southern peas thriving and growing in the summer heat as a living mulch.

Southern peas include black-eyed peas, purple hull peas, crowder peas, zipper cream peas and cowpeas. Most varieties can be harvested at three stages: Young pods can be eaten whole when they are still immature, like snow peas; Peas can be eaten fresh as “green shells”, when the peas have swelled but are still crisp and sweet; Or, pods can be left to dry on the vine, then stored for cooking later or saved to plant next spring.

Asparagus long beans, aka yardlong beans, actually grow to be half a yard long. Some people think their sweet flavor is like asparagus, hence their name. I prefer to sauté them in a little oil, which preserves their fresh flavor instead of boiling in water. Our school garden favorite is Red Noodle, which has deep red burgundy pods.

Red Noodle Beans


As staples of the summer garden, Southern peas and long beans can be planted from April to early July when soil temperatures are 65-80°


Preparation: Mix 1 cup of a slow-release organic fertilizer into the top few inches for every 4 square feet of planting area. Plant in garden beds that receive full sun and/or bare soil areas around taller summer crops such as okra.

  • Trellis: Vining varieties will need a trellis, 5-7 feet high
  • Planting depth: 2 inches (in a furrow dug under the trellis, if using)
  • Spacing: 5 inches
  • Days to Germination: 5-10 days (depends on soil temperature)
  • Days to Harvest: 75 days

For more garden information on ‘highly-likely-to succeed’ vegetables for the Houston area, download the Free Urban Harvest School Garden Guide.

Download Urban Harvest School Garden Guide

Carol Burton is the Director of Garden Education with over 20 years of experience working with school and community gardens. She regularly shares her knowledge of teaching students at workshops, garden demonstrations and through the Urban Harvest School Garden Guide.