Planting Guide - Pea Seeds
Growing Peas in Your Garden
Known by so many names – garden peas, shelling peas, snap peas, sugar peas, snow peas – not all peas are the same. Some grow plump, juicy peas in edible pods that are best enjoyed raw, while others grow miniscule sized peas in flat pods that bring out their best flavor steamed or in soups. Knowing which type of peas you would like to grow in your garden will steer your early spring dinners in very definite directions! Growing your own crop of peas is incredibly easy and can be done large scale or with very limited space. Kick start your summer garden with an early spring sowing and enjoy the taste of your very own home grown crop.
When & How to Plant Pea Seeds
Choose an open, weed-free site in full sun. Grow your peas in moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Peas prefer cool, damp weather but avoid working in overly wet soil as this will compact and your peas may rot. Try to dig plenty of well-rotted compost into the soil several weeks before sowing to improve soil fertility and help retain moisture. If you do not have the time to do that, side dress after planting with bone meal and a low nitrogen fertilizer if you feel your soil needs amendments.
Peas enjoy temperatures of 55-65F degrees but are hardy down to 40F – so plant early, as soon as you can work the soil down to 2 inches. Directly sow them in long furrows if planting up against a fence, or in a circular pattern if using tomato cages or tee-pees as a trellis.
Plant your peas 1 inch deep, and sprinkle the pea seeds out about 3 inches apart. By sowing your peas at this spacing, you are more likely to get a full bed of plants without gaps. Later, after your seeds have sprouted, you will thin them to the desired spacing. Cover with 1 inch of soil and water gently, taking care not to wash away your newly planted seeds. Erect your well-anchored support now so that it will be in place as soon as your seedlings are ready to start climbing.
Keep pea beds moist and weed free, 2 inches of a good organic mulch helps with both. Direct water at roots, not leaves, to head off mildew and fusarium wilt.
When your seedlings have 3-4 pairs of leaves is the time to thin your peas to their final spacing of 5-6 inches apart. This is always the hardest part for any gardener! Know that proper spacing between plants is critical for the health of your mature peas. It improves air circulation to help prevent disease and gives the roots of individual plants enough space to forage for water and nutrients.
As the plants get taller and start to climb, help wayward branches find their vertical support system. Gently coax them onto your support by tucking them in behind the trellis or within a more compliant, neighboring vine.
Morning is the best time to pick, as the sugar content is highest then. At peak ripeness the outer shell will be bright green, not dull and waxy. The trickiest thing about harvesting peas is knowing when they’re ripe. You don’t want to pick then when the peas are undersized, but if you wait too long the peas will lose their sweetness and turn hard.
Continue to pick the vines as the peas ripen. If you do that, the plants will keep flowering and continue to produce, at least until the weather gets really hot. Let the ones that you want to save for next year dry on the vine.
Preparing Peas for Next Season
Peas are legumes, which take in nitrogen from the air and “fix” (store) it in small nodules along their roots. When growing garden peas, don’t be tempted to pull the plants up from the roots at the end of the season. The leaves and stems can be cut off at ground level and added to the compost heap, leaving the roots in the ground. As the roots break down, they release nitrogen into the soil. The nitrogen is then free to be taken up by next year’s crop in a normal rotation system! Try growing your summer corn in this spot next season!