Growing any legumes can add much needed nitrogen to soil while also providing a delicious food you can enjoy for months. Peas can be sensitive to heat but super prolific, learn more about how to grow them!
Growing peas is a rewarding experience. One of the BEST straight from the garden goodies I’ve enjoyed year after year. There are a few different kinds, the most common for home gardeners are snow peas and sugar snap. Below we will learn all about this delicious vegetable.
There are many great seed companies to check out. You can find out more about the best ones here: https://ahomemadefromscratch.com/seed-catalogs-2020/ Every year they will send out free catalogues to farmers and home gardeners. My favorite pea seeds are Sugar Snap from Johnny’s. They are tasty, reliable, heavy producers that will keep you in fresh, delicious peas all season long.
Types of peas
There are a few different kinds of peas and you should be aware of all of them. First, let’s preface this by saying I am talking about EDIBLE peas. Sweet peas, commonly found in cut flower gardens, are NOT edible. Please be aware of this before you go buy seeds, particularly if they are at a big box store and not clearly marked. They are actually a different species. You can find more about their toxicity at Gardening Know How.
For edible peas, there are snow, sugar snap and shelling (also known as English peas). The snow and sugar snap varieties can mature to the point of shelling for soups, etc. but they are also perfectly wonderful and delicious to eat with the pod. The shelling varieties are not. The pod on those are tough, stringy and not tasty. I grew a purple podded variety from Seed Saver Exchange that was fun to grow but a little difficult because they needed to reach maturity in the spring before it got too hot in the south.
Sugar and snow peas have a variety of uses. Sugar snap peas are my personal favorite for fresh eating. Snow are good but I prefer them lightly sautéed in butter. YUM! They do well in many Asian dishes.
Basics to growing peas
You need a few basic things to grow peas successfully. First, there are bush and vining peas. The bush one still need some support but the vining peas seem to do the best and growing VERY tall. Consider some of these trellis ideas to growing tall happy pea plants.
Peas prefer cool weather. The Pacific Northwest, where we recently relocated too, is the perfect environment as it tends to have consistent water (sometimes too much!) and cooler general temperatures than the southern United States where I moved from. For the south, I would have to plant them very early, around February, but not too early as they can die with frost. The season would typically be very short as it warms up quickly and it too hot for the peas to produce by late spring. They do best with soil temperatures between 50 and 70F. For many areas, you can grow them in the spring and potentially grow them again in the fall after the heat has passed.
Peas are large seeds. Remember, in general, for most seeds you want to plant them twice as deep as they are wide. For peas, this is about an inch into the soil. But because they are often vining types, they can be planted quite close together, just 1-3 inches apart.
Peas prefer light, well draining soil where they can store the nitrogen they fix in their roots. They typically do not need a lot of fertilizer because of their ability to fix nitrogen but be mindful of phosphorous and potassium as they might need help there. Be sure to aim for loamy soil that is rich in biodiversity including mychorriza and other biological life that hold the soil together. In many places, there may be enough nutrients but not a good delivery method for the plants.
Peas do not like extremes, particularly when they are young. They are not as hardy and cannot handle as much change as some other legumes such as beans. They do not like their feet too wet or too dry. If soggy, they ay struggle with disease and insect pressure such as aphids. It is generally recommended to mulch around peas to help with weeds and insects.
Overall, pea are relatively easy to care for. They do not require pruning. Harvesting will help production but is not necessary. They would like an even cool place to trellis up with very little soil amendments.
Harvesting and Using Peas
Most peas will be ready to harvest 60 to 70 days post planting. One of the most wonderful things about peas is that they can be edible at many stages and the pea tendrils and flowers are also edible. Pea flowers make colorful addition to a salad! Make sure to pick shelling peas before they become waxy to get the best tasting peas.
Generally picking you can harvest them throughout growing from “snow pea stage” to “shelling stage” to the final stage which would be seed saving, where the seed pods mature and dry to save for next year. Peas have the best flavor immediately after harvesting, so aim to pick and serve or just eat right off the plant!
My favorite way to keep peas I am not eating immediately is to blanche and freeze. This preserves their freshness for a long time and can be added to a variety of recipes past the peak season. You should remove the string from the peas prior to this process.
Pests and Diseases
If stressed, plants tend to do worse, regardless of how well the set up is. Aphids are a common pest for peas. Ensuring good soil and healthy ecosystem with plenty of opportunities for ladybugs is a good way to help. Organically, you can use neem oil to help keep them at bay. Watch for ants “farming” the aphids, this is especially true in the south with fire ants. They won’t hurt the plant but they protect the aphids.
Powdery mildew is a common disease. I’ve noticed it shows up under heat stress, especially if it is very humid. The leaves and stems get a white coating that continues to hurt the plants until they die all the way back. Do not compost any of those pea plants that show up with this disease.
In addition, practice good rotation. It is best practice to not plant peas in the same spot for four years to prevent issues. Root-knot nematodes are also an issue. I had them affect some carrots. They are hard to get rid of so be sure to clean tools and destroy affected plants.
What is your favorite pea recipe? Drop a comment and let me know!
Pin for later: