How to Grow Cowpeas (Black Eyed Peas)

By: Dan Hagan - Managing Editor

Cowpeas, also known as Black Eyed Peas, are one of the oldest grain crops known to man. They are easy to grow and can be used in many different ways, fresh, dried, powdered for flower and much more. Cowpeas are not a cold hearty plant, but they are very heat tolerant. Originally coming from the hot climates of Africa, Cowpeas make an excellent summer crop.

Choose a section of the garden that receives full sun and has a rich well-drained soil. Soil that retains too much moisture could lead to yellow leaves and even rot

Amend soil with a fair amount of compost or other organic material. High quality compost can lead to a much larger harvest.

After all threat of frost has passed sow the seeds about 3” apart from each other in rows that are about 3’ apart.

Once the seeds have germinated feed them with a high quality 10-20-10 fertilizer to give the plants a good start.

Harvest! Cowpeas can be harvested at 3 different times, small green pods, mature beans and dried beans.


  • Cowpeas, like many other legumes, will fix nitrogen from the air into the soil when young. The plant uses this nitrogen to develop the pods; so once the plant starts to flower.
  • Heavy nitrogen fertilizers are not recommended. Watch for signs of nitrogen deficiencies after flowering and adjust feeding as needed.
  • Cowpeas can cope, and even thrive, with a little more crowding than most other plants.
  • Harvest young pods to be used like green beans, but the pods will get very stringy quickly.
  • Harvest mature peas once they reach full size and the pod is still green for use in fresh dishes.
  • Harvest dried pods and seeds for storage or use in recipes that call for dried peas.

If you would like to be part of the conversation, join our Zone 9 Vegetable Gardening Facebook Page!