Cowpeas

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Cowpeas are super easy to grow, they provide a lot of edible beans that you can replant back into the yard each year for a never-ending supply of bean plants. Cowpeas grow well in warm weather, so as your other bean plants are fading out in the summer, these guys will still be going strong.

It takes 2-3 months for cowpeas to go from planted seed to harvest (when you can pick them).

I plant cowpea seeds when it starts warming up and an unusual frost is no longer expected – which is usually mid-February here in zone 9b Florida, but it changes each year. This winter, 2022, the cold has lasted throughout March so I got off to a late start.

benefits of growing cowpeas in the garden

If I had to recommend 5 plants every gardener should grow – Cowpeas would be one of them.

  • These easy-to-grow, heat-loving plants make an awesome summer cover crop to block out the weeds.
  • As a legume, cowpeas are a fast-growing nitrogen fixer, making it a great choice as a chop and drop plant.
  • They attract pollinators and beneficial microorganisms, and of course, the beans and new growth are edible.
  • The beans (25% protein), young shoots, pea pods, and leaves of a cowpea plant are all edible.

when and how to plant cowpeas in zone 9b

Here in Brevard County Florida, I start tossing my cowpea seeds when things are just starting to warm up for spring. These drought-tolerant plants have no problem standing up to Florida’s brutal summer heat.

Cowpeas are drought-tolerant, so go ahead and plant them at the furthest spot from the hose. I don’t normally water mine unless it hasn’t rained for a long time and they look really droopy.

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After they bloom, I leave the beans to dry in the pods and try to harvest all the pods before they get caught up in too many rain storms and get moldy.

using cowpeas for chop and drop

When the plant looks like it is done blooming, I get a pair of scissors and cut the plant back all the way to the ground.

I cut off all the leaves, stems, and moldy pods, and pile them on the ground where they used to grow.

I don’t pull the roots out, I just leave them to either get new growth or dieback. Root systems are a popular feeding spot for the beneficial microorganisms that improve the soil, so I try not to disturb them.

cowpeas as pollinators in zone 9b

The gentle, purple flowers attract so many pollinators! Each year, I throw thousands of seeds in my field as a way to slowly enrich the soil. I love walking out there to see all the different types of buzzing and crawling insects they attract. Pollinators bees, butterflies, and wasps.

cowpeas pests

I love seeing all the insects buzzing around my cowpea plants – and there are a lot! They attract many pollinators including bees, butterflies, and beneficial wasps, but they also bring in many aphids and stinkbugs.

It is always best to simply pick off any pests rather than spray them. If you are vigilant and get them early, you will prevent them from multiplying and taking over.

Cowpea pod borer aka legume pod borer: Cowpeas are a host plant for the legume pod borer. A moth lays its eggs on the plant, and when the caterpillars are born, they eat their way through the pods and into the beans, destroying the crop.

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I have found the best way to get rid of pests in my garden is to have fish tanks and ponds. Lots of them.

Whenever I find pests on my plants, I feed them to the many fish, frogs, and turtles we care for around here.

Read more about how we use fish tanks around the property here.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>