For more than a century, Little Marvel peas have been home vegetable garden staples. Frost-resistant, these cold-weather performers produce abundant crops of sweet, tender peas on compact plants. Unlike that of many pea varieties, Little Marvel's fruit remains tender even when left to ripen on the bush. An early producer, Little Marvel will have peas ready for harvesting within 10 weeks of planting.
Little Marvel is an English pea. Sutton & Sons of Reading, England, introduced it in 1900 as the result of a cross between their A-1 and Chelsea Gem varieties. In 1908, the James J.H. Gregory Seed Company of Marblehead, Massachusetts, offered Little Marvel in the United States.
A semi-dwarf, 18- to 20-inch-tall plant, Little Marvel has deep green, 3-inch long pods. Each pod contains from six to nine peas, according to the Gurney's Seed and Nursery Co. website. The plants' compound, pinnate leaves have a feathery appearance. Its thin, climbing stems produce twisting tendrils and white, sweet-pea like-blooms.
Like most peas, Little Marvel thrives in sun and moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter, advises Dan Drost of the Utah State University Cooperative Extension. If necessary, amend the soil in advance with a 2- to 3-inch layer of composted organic material and 1 lb. of 16-16-8 fertilizer for every 100 square feet of soil. Mix the compost and fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil.
How to Plant
Soaking Little Marvel seeds before planting may soften and split their coatings. Nutrients from split seeds can leach into the soil, leaving the seeds more vulnerable to rot. Plant dry Little Marvel seeds 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches apart. Separate the rows of plants by 1 to 2 feet. Growing plants don't require thinning. Plants support each other, so staking isn't necessary.
Care of Growing Plants
The seeds will germinate between a week and 10 days after soil temperatures reach between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The plants produce their heaviest crops with regular watering, especially after they've flowered. Overwatering, however, increases the risk of root rot. Letting the soil dry somewhat after watering is best, Drost advises. Little Marvel peas in soil amended with organic material won't need further fertilizer. Adding it increases soil nitrogen content, something the peas already do as legumes. High soil nitrogen encourages leaf production at the expense of flowers and peas.
Little Marvels are early peas, ready for harvesting in approximately 64 days. Like all English peas, they should remain in their pods to ripen completely. Remove them from the pods before eating or freezing, advises the National Garden Bureau.