Learn how to grow peas from seed! In this article we will discuss the methods in which you can start pea seeds and successfully add this tasty veggie to your garden. Peas are such simple and delicious staple in many gardens. They are easy to pop into your mouth while in the garden, and they are a tasty addition too many meals.
Why grow peas
Peas originated in western Asia and Eastern Europe and existed back in the Stone Age. Originally, these vining annuals were grown only for their dried seeds. However at the turn of the millennia, people also started eating them fresh. The word peas actually came from the Anglo Saxons who called them “pise,” and that word eventually became “peas.”
Who know such a little veggie could pack such a healthy punch!? Peas are a good source of vitamins C and E, zinc, and other antioxidants that strengthen your immune system. Other nutrients, such as vitamins A and B, they can help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis (source).
Peas are a great early spring crop, you can start them as soon as the snow (depending on your growing region) has melted. They enjoy climbing and can add a whimsical design element to your garden. Peas typically mature into a sweet little pod that can be eaten raw or cooked. Peas are relatively simple and low maintence to grow and typically mature within 28 days. I recommend peas as a starter veggie for the novice gardener because they don't take very much work and will grow in many conditions.
start growing peas today
First chose the variety(s) of pea you want to grow. I recommend growing a few different types of peas in your garden. There are big peas and petit peas. Large vines and dwarf vines, spring peas and hardy winter ones as well as peas suitable to hot weather, bush peas and pole peas.
Bush v. Pole Peas
Pole peas typically take a bit longer to mature and need a trellis to climb. They typically bear more pods and produce later into the season. Bush peas can grow between one and two feet typically and do not have to be trellised, however they are easier to harvest if you do decide to trellis.
Types of pea
Snap peas specifically the sugar snap variety is delicious cooked or picked straight from the vine and eaten. They are tasty eaten pod and all or "snapped" and used just for their sweet interior peas. Snap peas require support to grow, some sort of trellising system should be used.
Snow peas have a flat pod and very small peas inside. The snow pea pod is edible and should be eaten with the peas, whole. This is the type of pea that you do not shell. Both the bush and pole varieties of snow peas tend to like to climb in my experience, I recommend trellising. You can plant snow peas as much as six weeks before your last frost.
English peas also known as shelling peas or garden peas, these are the same peas that are frozen. The pod isn't eaten, just the peas inside. English peas prefer to be trellised.
When buying pea seeds I always look for a high quality seed that will produce well in my growing region. My go-to for buying seeds is Johnny's.
Planting and Growing peas
Most peas grow best in cool weather, and can be planted well before your last frost (up to six weeks prior). Peas need loose, loamy soil. If you have heavy clay or sandy soil, be sure to work in plenty of organic compost. great soil additives for peas are earthworm castings and soft rock phosphate.
I recommend soaking pea seeds overnight prior to planting. This encourages germination and root development. You can soak seeds until a small sprout starts to form. At this point plant immediately as these seeds need nutrients and water simply won't cut it at this point.
Plant peas two inches deep and 2 to 3 inches apart in double rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Sow two seeds to each hole. Although peas are a cool weather crop they should be planted in full sun. Use a trellis or poles to support the vines. I almost always direct plant my peas as this eliminates hardening-off my seedlings, which must be done if you start seeds indoors.
If you chose to start pea seedlings indoors remember pea vines and roots are fragile a. Take care when removing them from their original container that you don’t damage them. Always transplant from wet soil to wet soil.
Peas are sensitive to too much nitrogen, but they do like phosphorus and potassium, so if you to fertilize, choose a fertilizer such as Espoma Garden Tone. Keep soil moist, not wet, until the plants have established roots. Usually about 1 week for transplants, longer for seeds.
Pests and weeding
In my experience Rot, wilt, blight, mosaic, and mildew are diseases that can destroy pea plants. To avoid root-rot disease, plant peas in well-drained soil. Also avoid handling vines when they are wet.
Weeding your garden is important for all plant success. Weeds steal nutrients from your peas, so weed regularly. Again, since the plant is very fragile, do so carefully, trying not to uproot the plant or damage the vines.
pea Harvest and storage
You can harvest peas anywhere from 55 to 80 days from sowing, depending on the variety and weather conditions.
Start Harvesting as soon as the pea pods look well filled, unless you are harvesting a snow pea plant (you don't want the pod to be filled out at all in the case of snow pea). Timing is everything, if you harvest your peas too early, you will be forgoing fully ripened peas, if you harvest too late the peas will no longer be sweet and juicy and will have more of a woody bitter taste.
Using and storing
There is nothing like peas fresh from the garden. My recommendation is to get your peas from the vine to whatever method you want to use for consuming or preserving as soon as possible! Shell peas right before whatever processing method you chose.