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How to Grow Cowpeas in a Small Homestead (Metric System)

Introduction: Hey there! Cowpeas, also known as black-eyed peas or southern peas, are amazing plants to grow on a small homestead. They’re like little powerhouses that bring both nutrition and goodness to your garden. Let’s dive in and learn how to grow them step-by-step and why they’re so beneficial:

Step 1: Choose the Right Spot: Find a sunny area in your garden where cowpeas can get at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. They love the warmth! Cowpeas also prefer temperatures between 25-30°C, so planting them in the spring and early summer works best.

Step 2: Prepare the Soil: Cowpeas are not very picky, but they prefer well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0-7.0. Add some compost (about 5-10 centimeters) to the soil to give them a boost of nutrients before planting.

Step 3: Planting Time: Wait until after the last frost in your area before planting cowpeas. In colder regions, this is usually around late spring or early summer when the soil has warmed up.

Step 4: Sow the Seeds: Plant the cowpea seeds about 2.5-5 centimeters deep and 10-15 centimeters apart. You can create rows or plant them in mounds, depending on your preference. If you’re using rows, space them about 45-60 centimeters apart to give the plants enough room to grow.

Step 5: Water and Care: Keep the soil consistently moist, especially when the plants are young and during flowering and pod formation. Once they grow bigger, they can handle a bit of drought. Water deeply and less frequently to encourage the development of strong root systems.

Remove any weeds that might compete with the cowpeas for nutrients, especially in the early stages when the plants are establishing themselves.

Step 6: Support and Training (Optional): Some varieties of cowpeas are bush types and don’t require support. However, if you’re growing vining varieties, you can provide trellises or stakes for them to climb. This makes harvesting easier and keeps the plants off the ground, reducing the risk of diseases.

Step 7: Fertilizing (Optional): Cowpeas are nitrogen-fixing legumes, meaning they can draw nitrogen from the air and enrich the soil. If you want to give them an extra boost, you can side-dress the plants with a balanced organic fertilizer when they start to flower.

Step 8: Harvest Time: Cowpeas grow fast! In about 60-90 days, you can start harvesting the pods. Pick them when they’re still young and tender for the best flavor. You can also leave some pods on the plant to mature and dry for later use as dry beans.

Benefits of Growing Cowpeas on a Small Homestead:

1. Nutrient-Rich Food: Cowpeas are like little nutritional powerhouses! They’re packed with protein, fiber, vitamins (like vitamin A and B vitamins), and minerals (such as iron, magnesium, and potassium), making them a healthy addition to your diet.

2. Soil Improvers: Cowpeas have a special ability to add nitrogen back into the soil through a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This helps other plants grow better and makes your garden more fertile.

3. Versatile in the Kitchen: Cowpeas can be cooked in various ways! You can boil, steam, or stir-fry them. They’re delicious in salads, soups, and stews too! You can also let some pods mature and dry on the plant to harvest as dry beans, perfect for soups and bean dishes.

4. Space-Savers: Cowpeas grow vertically, which means they don’t take up a lot of space in your garden. This makes them perfect for small homesteads, and you can even grow them in containers.

5. Drought-Tolerant: Cowpeas are tough cookies! They can handle hot and dry weather, making them an excellent choice for gardens with limited water. This also means they require less irrigation, making them water-efficient.

6. Crop Rotation: Growing cowpeas in your garden can be part of a smart crop rotation plan. They help break the pest and disease cycle, benefiting other plants in the future. Their nitrogen-fixing ability also improves soil health for subsequent crops.

Conclusion: So, there you have it! Growing cowpeas on your small homestead is a win-win situation. They’re easy to care for, super nutritious, and great for your garden’s health. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy their tasty pods and beans in many delicious recipes. Happy gardening and bon appétit! 🌱🍽️

Growing cowpeas in Namibia

Here’s more from an article by Christine Keulder in the Namibian:

Originally from West Africa, cowpea, or black-eyed pea (Vigna unguiculata) is now a global crop. It is widely used for intercropping of the major African cereals: maize, sorghum and millet. It is an important dual-purpose legume feeding both humans and livestock.

Most farmers in northern Namibia grow cowpea. It is considered the second or third most important crop after millet (and perhaps sorghum). Both the seeds and the leaves are edible, and the crop forms an important part of the traditional diet. The season runs from October to April. Almost two-thirds of cowpea producers are women, meaning that improved commercialisation of the crop will benefit women directly.

For a variety of reasons, cowpeas could be part of the answer to many Namibians’ food insecurity. New varieties of this legume have been introduced that are drought resistant, heat tolerant and have a shorter growing season, making it the ideal crop for all of Namibia as it is suitable to grow in all 14 regions of the country.

It is a crop that is not only a protein-rich delicacy, but with many other benefits too. It is a nitrogen fixer that improves soil fertility and its flowers produce sufficient nectar to attract pollinators such as honeybees. As a result, cowpeas may also be an ideal crop for urban and permaculture farmers and gardeners.

The African slave trade was responsible for exporting cowpea to many other parts of the world, including the United States of America, where it is considered an integral part of Southern soul food. Hoppin’ John is a typical cowpea dish from that part of the world.

Cowpeas can be cooked to be eaten as both a savoury and sweet, dessert dish. As a savoury dish it is commonly cooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and chili or hot sauce as aromatic accompaniments. Meat, especially pork, and fish are popular proteins cooked or served with cowpeas and it is also popularly served with rice. Moin-moin is a popular Nigerian pudding made from ground cowpeas.

It is perplexing that we do not plant, cook and consume more of these wholesome, easy to grow, nutrient-dense foods such as cowpeas outside the traditional farming areas. Seeing that food prices are on the rise and that so many of our fellow Namibians will experience food insecurity as they will not be able to purchase food in the coming months, the value of these types of crops cannot be underestimated.

Under current conditions, the need for urban agriculture is clear to see, and so is the need for all Namibians to assume the responsibility to grow at least some of their own food, especially in urban areas. If you consider doing this, cowpeas may be a good place to start.

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