Peas

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Pea Plants

Peas and Pea Pods
Pixabay

Peas are a popular, tasty, cool-season crop. Here’s how to grow peas in your garden!

There are three varieties of peas that will suit your garden and cooking needs: 

  • Pisum savitum, which includes both types of garden peas: sweet peas (inedible pods) and snow peas (edible flat pods with small peas inside).
  • Pisum macrocarpon, snap peas (edible pods with full-size peas).

Pea plants are easy to grow, but have a very limited growing season. Furthermore, peas do not stay fresh long after harvest, so enjoy them while you can!

Planting

  • To get the best head start, turn over your pea planting beds in the fall, add manure to the soil, and mulch well.
  • As with other legumes, pea roots will fix nitrogen in the soil, making it available for other plants.
  • Peas will appreciate a good sprinkling of wood ashes to the soil before planting. Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.
  • Sow seeds outdoors 4 to 6 weeks before last spring frost, when soil temperatures reach 45 degrees F. Here are some more tips on when to start planting peas.
  • Plant 1 inch deep (deeper if soil is dry) and 2 inches apart.
  • Get them in the ground while the soil is still cool, but do not have them sit too long in wet soil. It’s a delicate balance of proper timing and weather conditions. For soil that stays wet longer, invest in raised garden beds.
  • A blanket of snow won’t hurt emerging pea plants, but several days with temperatures in the teens could. Be prepared to plant again.
  • Peas are best grown in temperatures below 70 degrees F.
  • Check out this video to learn how to plant peas early while soil is cold.

Care

  • Make sure that you have well-drained, humus-rich soil.
  • Poke in any seeds that wash out. (A chopstick is an ideal tool for this.)
  • Be sure, too, that you don’t fertilize the soil too much. Peas are especially sensitive to too much nitrogen, but they may like a little bonemeal, for the phosphorus content.
  • Though adding compost or manure to the soil won’t hurt, peas don’t need heavy doses of fertilizer. They like phosphorus and potassium.
  • Water sparsely unless the plants are wilting. Do not let plants dry out, or no pods will be produced.
  • For tall and vine varieties, establish poles or a trellis at time of planting. Look at this video to find out how!
  • Do not hoe around plants to avoid disturbing fragile roots.
  • It’s best to rotate pea crops every year or two to avoid a buildup of soil-borne diseases.

Pests/Diseases

Harvest/Storage

  • Keep your peas well picked to encourage more pods to develop.
  • Pick peas in the morning after the dew has dried. They are crispiest then.
  • Always use two hands when you pick peas. Secure the vine with one hand and pull the peas off with your other hand.
  • Peas can be frozen or kept in the refrigerator for about 5 days. Place in paper bags, then wrap in plastic.
  • If you missed your peas’ peak period, you can still pick, dry, and shell them for use in winter soups.

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

If a girl finds nine peas in a pod, the next bachelor she meets will become her husband.

St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional day for growing peas. Find out how to grow peas when there’s still snow on the ground with this humorous video.

Recipes

Botanical Name: 

Pisum sativum

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