Growing chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) in your home garden can be a fun project full of delicious rewards. As soon as the beans turn green, kids and adults will be enjoying tasty garden snacks. Chickpea yields can vary quite a bit, but a little extra attention boosts your harvest. Plan your garden so all the chickpea lovers in your family can get their fill at every growing stage.
Choosing Your Chickpeas
Chickpeas are gaining popularity as a U.S. agricultural crop, but the seeds can be hard for home gardeners to locate. Buy from a trusted seed source to ensure you get viable seeds. Chickpeas come in two main types: desi and kabuli. Desi types are small, dark-colored peas popular in Indian dishes. The large, light-colored peas common in salad bars and Mediterranean dishes are kabulis, also known as garbanzo beans. Both types grow as leafy, pea-like bushes covered with small pods containing two to three peas each. They require a growing season of about 100 days to harvest.
Planning for Yields
Environmental factors have a big impact on chickpea yields. Plan to sow seeds early to extend your growing season, but wait until soil temperatures reach at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool, wet soil will rot the seeds. Most U.S. gardeners can plant chickpeas in early spring. Plant your seeds 6 to 12 inches apart and 1 to 2 inches deep. If harvested at the green stage, a favorite Mediterranean treat, expect to get 1/2 to 2 pounds per plant over the season. If harvested when dry, plan on 1/10 to 1/2 pound of chickpeas per plant.
Optimizing the Crop
Chickpeas prefer well-drained, non-compacted soil. Before planting, work granular 5-10-10 fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil at a rate comparable to 1 cup per 50-foot row. Avoid heavy nitrogen fertilizers or you'll end up with foliage and few pods. Chickpeas prefer cool weather; they may shut down in heat. For bigger yields, keep them watered. According to Iowa State University's Agriculture Marketing Research Center, chickpeas that receive consistent irrigation can produce 20 to 28 percent more than those limited to natural rainfall. In your home garden, provide 1 inch of water per week. Water in early morning so your chickpeas dry well through the day; this helps reduce disease.
Enjoying Your Harvest
Chickpeas ripen about three months after planting. The harvest can keep rolling for four months. While they're still green, try the foliage and pods in salads. When pods turn yellow and brown, harvest time draws near. For dry beans, let the pods dry on the bush. Finish drying in a cool place inside, if necessary. Eat chickpeas fresh or dried, boiled, fried, roasted and more -- even ground into flour for bread. High in protein, fiber and energy-building nutrients, they lend themselves to all styles of cooking. Your garden-grown chickpeas will inspire healthy new dishes and bring excellent nutrition to your family's table.