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Growing Peas Garden Insider Secret Guide

a couple of months ago

Growing Peas is like a Box of Chocolates

gorwing peasPeas are one of those vegetables that are woven into our everyday lives and culture.  Remember the movie Forest Gump and the famous line, “Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots.”  Yes, peas do seem to mix well with carrots.  Have you ever wanted to grow peas in your garden?  Want to save some money at the supermarket because man those sugar snap peas are expensive.

You will find a treasure trove of growing pea garden tips to help you get your green thumb.  You will have so many peas that your old aunt’s Pea Soup recipe will be a dance in your mouth from your garden peas you grow.  See if you discover our insider secret tips on how to grow peas.

Growing Peas is easy to do and one of the first vegetables you can plant in the spring or late in the summer.  You simply sow your peas when the soil temperatures are at least 60°F (16°C) or above.  They prefer a spot in full sun to part shade. 

It is best to inoculate the pea seeds with a bacteria called Rhizobia for new garden beds or you can provide some rich vermicompost.  Ideally, you need some form of a trellis to make it easier to grow.  The peas are typically ready to harvest within 7 to 10 weeks.

The following pea growing garden tips are geared for growing your peas in your garden soil beds via direct sowing.  You may also grow the peas in a container, but you want to ensure you can have some type of vertical trellis.  Some of the vines can get pretty tall, so be aware of that when choosing your container.  You may want place your container of pea plants next to a built-in trellis.

The French really popularized eating fresh peas in the 1600s when King Louis XIV became a Green thumb Gardener. Click to Tweet

Pea Pod History

Peas (Pisum sativum) was found mostly in Eastern & Mediterranean Europe from as early as 4800 BC.   They are among the earliest types of cultivated vegetables that are known to have been grown.  There were even reports of evidence being found in mud sites near Bronze Age Swiss lake dwellers that are believed to be about 5000 years old.  These were mainly dried and used in some of the many food staples during those times.

The Romans actually thought they were poisonous if eaten fresh instead of dried.  Crazy they missed out on some killer snap pea stir-fry dishes.  The French really popularized eating fresh peas in the 1600s when King Louis XIV became a Green thumb Gardener.  He was growing peas like a boss back then.  Here is insider secret #1, the French are not known for their beans (French cut beans), but their innovation of peas.

In modern times, you will peas are eaten fresh, steamed with butter and paired up with carrots like Forest and Jenny.  They come eaten in pods, shelled, and range from mildly sweet-savory to really sweet.  You will see pea pods lavishly used Asian stir-fried dishes and fresh peas will speckly many popular Indian dishes.  You also can’t leave the southern US without trying some split pea soup flavored with a hammock.  All this writing about peas is making me crave a spicy stir fry with snap peas.

You might wonder how can add to the legacy of peas.  You can do your part by planting a variety of peas plants in your garden this spring and fall.  It is a so simple to grow these lovely little green spheres of sweet bliss. Trust me, there is nothing like picking fresh pea pods from your garden and eating before you can make it back to your kitchen.  The kids love them as well, so they don’t make it far, so plant more than you think you need.

The Joys of Growing Peas

growing peas garden There are way too many reasons why you need to grow peas in your garden.  First off, they are one of the earliest crops out there that you can grow.  Imagine picking peas from your fresh garden outside in late February to early March.  Yes, if you live in areas near the equator (think Southern US), then your soil could reach the optimal temperatures to plant.

Ideally, a spot in the most sunlight would be best to grow them faster since the sun is out less during this time.  Here are a few other reasons to get peas growing in your garden:

  • Earliest Spring Vegetable –  You know how it is packed in your house with shorter days and piles of snow in your driveway.  The seed catalogs can only hold you so far as you check if your soil can be worked.  Some gardeners even plant peas in the winter to ensure the crop will be ready for the spring.  That’s what we do.  We start growing peas during early October and they survive the weather in zone 7B for February pickings.  Eating fresh peas in February is insider secret #2
  • Nature’s own daily multivitamin– Peas are packed with phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.  Not to mention that 100g of peas provides 16% of your daily folic acid needs and 67% of your vitamin c (take that…oranges).
  • Great source of fiber and protein– In the survival and prepping world, you might want to add this one to your list of must-haves.  While this may not beat soybeans for protein content, it is a cold weather plant that does have a good amount of dense nutrition.  You have almost 6g of protein and 5g of fiber in a 100g of peas.  That is a solid choice for early harvesting

Step by Step Guide on How to Plant Peas

Let’s get down to the dirt with the best way to plant your peas in the garden.  You will find an easy step by step guide below.  This guide is mainly focused on planting peas directly in your garden.  You alter some of these steps to plant them in a container if desired.  Just keep in mind that you will also need a trellis of some sort in your container for peas to grow healthier.

Materials Needed for Growing Peas

  • Pea seeds – Check out a few of the varieties below for the different types of peas you can start from seed.  Keep in mind the days of harvest as there are some early and late varieties of pea plants.
  • Bacteria inoculant (optional) – This comes in a black powder that you dip the pea seeds in just before planting. This is listed as optional because it is not crucial to have unless you are planting peas for the first time and it is early in the season when soil bacteria is low due to the cold.  See the section below for more thoughts on using bacteria inoculant to grow peas.  Check out the latest prices here
  • Fertilizer or compost– Giving the peas a good start of nitrogen is definitely needed if you don’t use the inoculate.
  • Trellis– You don’t need anything fancy, but just keep in mind that peas plants do better with some type of trellis to climb up.  It is worth noting that peas can suffer from powdery mildew if left to grow on the ground, so your harvest will not be as abundant if no trellis is used.

Steps to Grow Peas in your Garden

  1. Start by identifying the area that you want to plant your peas in.  Ideally, a place that has full to partial sun with a trellis in place.
  2. Work in your compost or fertilizer into the soil prior to planting.  This will help ensure that you have a good supply of nutrients to promote growth for your pea plants as they sprout.
  3. Dig a small trench alongside your trellis or poke a 1″ hole in the dirt for each pea seed that you want to plant.  Pea seeds need to be sown about 1″ apart from each other at a depth of about 1″.   Note: You want the pea plants to be close enough to reach your trellis.  This will ensure that the plants can easily attach to it once they start growing.
  4. Inoculate the pea plant seed with the bacteria if you chose to use this.
  5. Place your pea seeds about 1″ apart in your trench or in each hole if chose that method.  It is best to follow the recommendations on your particular pea seed packet.  You won’t go wrong with about 1″ apart though.
  6. Next, you want to lightly cover your seeds with up to 1″ of sifted soil.  The optimal depth for growing lettuce is about 1/4- 1/2 inch.
  7. Lightly water the top inch of soil once your pea seeds are covered.  You want to moisten the pea seeds enough to promote & ensure optimal germination conditions.
  8. The pea seeds typically germinate in about 14 days depending on the variety & soil temperature.  It will take less time to sprout in warmer temperatures or if the soil temperature is higher than 65 degrees
  9. We recommend to let the peas sprout and grow for 5-10 days before you add liquid fertilizer to your pea plants.
  10. You can harvest peas in about 3-4 weeks after your pea flowers blossom.  Check your seeds packet to find out the recommended harvest time.  Typically, it is about 7-11 weeks from seed to harvest.  Factors that will cause this to vary are soil temperature and amount of sunlight.

Check out this video below about how to plant sugar snap peas.  While we plant sugar snap peas, this is also relevant for any other types of pea plants.

Are Pea Plants able to be transplanted?

Some vegetables are perfect candidates for getting a head start, but it is not always the case for every one of them.  This is due to the stress that can be brought on by transplanting.  Some vegetables don’t do well when their roots are disturbed or placed in a new growing environment.

Pea plants are in the grey area.  It is best to direct sow them, however, the pea plants don’t necessarily get too stressed when transplanting.  Many gardeners had success starting their pea seeds early indoors and then transplanting them once the soil temperature has warmed up to optimal temperatures.

Personally, I have not needed to do this because of our growing zone.  Being in zone 7b has the advantage of having mild winters.  We actually plant in early fall and continually harvest until the heat arrives next summer.  Our harvest is very light during the winter if we planted them in late summer (peas don’t grow well in the heat), but really perks up in late February.

That being said, if you are in a more Northern area (those above the equator), then I would give it a shot.  It is recommended that you immediately transplant them as soon as you can because the root system is much different in some varieties and they have a fair chance to do well if they are root bound in your seed tray.

Planting Peas on a Trellis

It is best to plant your peas using some sort of trellis.  This is true for garden peas, snap peas and snow peas.  Building a sturdy trellis is best done before you plant.  This helps so you don’t disturb the plants as they are still very immature.  Here are some of the benefits of using a trellis for your peas:

  • Powdery Mildew Prevention– Peas are susceptible to this type of mildew as they get wet.  A trellis keeps it off the wet ground and also promotes good airflow in between the vines to allow proper drying after they get wet.
  • Easier to Harvest – Pea vines can really grow in a clump even on a trellis making it hard to see when the peas are ready to pick.  A trellis helps the vines spread out more for easier picking

Trellis structures can be very simple designs and do not have to be complicated builds.  You can use chicken wire or a nylon netting.  There is also some more natural and rustic pea trellis where you use a bush or tree for the vines to climb.

Check out this video guide below that shows you how to build a trellis that can be used for your garden peas, sugar snap peas, and snow peas.

Where is the Ideal Location For Growing Peas

The answer to this question really depends on how soon you want to harvest your peas.  Ideally, peas prefer a location that does get full sun.  The peas can still grow well in partial shade but it may extend the time to harvest.  That being said sunlight that ranges from 4-8 hours is usually the sweet spot for growing peas.  This is so why the peas may not grow much during the winter months because the days are shorter thereby it could possibly decrease the amount of sunlight in the location.  Keep that in mind if your garden area is surrounded by trees or other structures.  The position of the sun changes as the season cycle through.

Another factor to keep in mind with the location is susceptibility to wind.  Some pea plants will form a thick clump of vines that can put stress on the trellis.  It is not a big detriment, but just keep that in mind if your trellis structures are not sturdy.

St Patrick's Day always seems to be the time that to think about growing peas in the springtime. Click to Tweet

When is the Best Time for Growing Peas

growing peasSt Patrick’s Day always seems to be the time that to think about growing peas in the springtime.  In most parts of the US, this day is a good reference.  Snow has melted and your ground may be ready to work.  Certainly, don’t wait until that date to get them in, but use it a reference to planning.

Ideally, the soil temperature is the biggest indicator of when the best to plant peas are.  The seeds may not germinate until the soil reaches 60°F.  You can try and germinate the seeds indoors and plant, but just keep in mind the growth may be slow.  Nature has a way of activating life for its environment, so cheating does not always work.

You can also plant peas in the late summer and early fall period.  Unfortunately, pea plants don’t tolerate heat very well.  In fact, the flowering of the plants is greatly affected by the soil temperature.

At the time of writing this, our October temperatures are much warmer than normal for this time of the year in zone 7B.  Our pea plants have not taken off as they usually have.  Fortunately, the nights have been cooler.  It was necessary to mulch heavily & water a bit more to keep the pea plant roots much cooler.

Companion Planting for Peas

You might be thinking can’t I just stick my plants wherever they want to grow.  While this is true, nature has a way of promoting mutual cooperation amongst many life forms.  This is also true for the plant world.  There is some science in play with this as most of the plant magic happens below the surface of the soil.  That being said these are not hard fast rules.  We have onions that are planted on the outer edges of our garden to help deter some pest, rabbits, and deer.  The peas that are near them seem to still grow.

Good Companion Plants for Peas

  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Beans
  • Eggplants
  • Turnips
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Corn

Bad Plants to Grow near Peas

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Gladiolus
  • Grapes
Peas are a nitrogen building beast which is insider secret #3 Click to Tweet

Care for your Growing Peas

Pea Water Requirements

Pea plants tend to be pretty easy to grow.  We find that they don’t need much fertilizer during their growth cycle.  You only need about a 1/2 inch of water per week until they flower.  You really want to make sure that there is even watering from seedlings to the flowering stage.  Never let them dry out as it will reduce yields.  Once they flower, you need to increase your water to about 1 inch per week until their pods fill up.  Not much fuss with these guys before they flower.

Pea Fertilizing Needs

Peas do not need any fertilizer during their growth periods.  This holds true as long as the soil that they are sown in is fertile.  You should as a good practice have soil that is rich in humus and mixed in with good compost.  You may also give it a boost of Nitrogen, maybe a fish emulsion, during the 1 week of it sprouting to help it get going.  Peas are one of the vegetables that pull nitrogen on its own once it starts growing.  When your pea plant dies after you harvest, cut the vines and leave the bottom section and the root still planted.  The remaining nitrogen stored in the plant will be released back into the soil.  Peas are a nitrogen building beast which is insider secret #3.

Pest/Diseases of Peas

Generally, peas are less susceptible to many diseases and pests since they are grown in much cooler weather.  Here are a few pests that affects peas that you must be aware of:

  • Aphids– These little green micro bugs will suck the life out of your pea vines
  • Mexican Bean Beetles – They look like little yellow ladybugs, but will tear your crops up like Japanese Beetles.  They usually are found under the leaves.
  • Thrips – Tiny brown or black insects that also are found under the leaves

Here are a few diseases that afefct pea plants:

  • Powdery Mildew–  A fungal disease that is brought on by the warmer weather, so this may only show up later in the spring after moist conditions.  A trellis will help with airflow.
  • Fusarium Wilt– a Fungal disease that turns the plant yellow, then brown that causes them to shrivel and die.

Harvesting Your Peas

This is where we get to taste the fruits of our labor.  You will see that the flowers have formed into pods and starting to fill out.  You want to give nature its chance to almost complete its cycle. Don’t pick too soon and don’t wait too long.  Get it just right as Goldilocks said.  Here are a few tips:

growing peas gardenHarvesting Snow Peas

  • Snow Peas are best to pick a little early in my opinion.  You don’t want the peas to get too full as they can get a little chewy.
  • These peas freeze well after you blanch them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes.  Lay them out on a tray after they have cooled from an ice bath and stick them in the freezer.
  • These are a staple in many stir-fry dishes

Harvesting Sugar Snap Peas

  • Sugar Snap Peas are plumper than the snow peas, but not as full as garden peas.  Pick them just before they are bulging.
  • You can remove the string from the pea pods or leave them if you like.
  • Sugar Snap peas also freeze well after you blanch them like Snow Peas above.

Saving Pea Seeds

Saving seeds is probably one of the most beneficial skills you can learn as a gardener.  Not only does it allow you to replant the same varieties the next year and save you money, but it ensures survival.  Pea seed saving is very easy to do and a way to save a legacy to pass on.  Here are a few tips to help.

  • Ensure the varieties of seeds you want to save are open-pollinated or heirloom
  • Leave some pea pods on the vine to fully mature as you harvest.   Each pod usually contains at least 4-5 pea seeds depending on the variety, so keep that in mind when determining how many seeds you need
  • You want to pea seeds to actually dry directly on the vine.  Their cycle ends as summer is just starting, so it should not take long to allow them to dry out.
  • Pea seeds can be stored for about 3 years if stored in ideal dry, dark and cold conditions.

Varieties of Peas to Grow

Here is a list of the different varieties of peas to grow in your garden.  They are grouped in the 3 main varieties of peas: Sugar Snap PeasSnow Peas, & Garden (Shelling) Peas.  These types are also best for heirloom or open pollinated plantings to ensure you can save these seeds for planting future pea crops.

Sugar Snap Peas

  • Dwarf Grey Sugar– One of the earliest and smallest edible podded peas..  Pods are 203 inches long and long and flat
  • Oregon Sugar Pod– A Mild flavored variety.  Plants are generally about 2 ft and pods are about 3-4 inches.  This is Green thumb Gardener’s choice.
  • Sugar Ann– A very sweet variety with pods that are 3-4 inches.
  • Sugar Daddy– Besides the cool name, they have crisp stringless pods with compact vines that grow to about 30 inches

Snow Peas

  • Caroubey De Mausanne – One of the sweetest snow peas.  These peas produce beautiful purples flowers and have tender large pods.  They originated from Avignon, France
  • Golden Sweet Snow Pea – Produces beautiful bright yellow, green pods.  Vines are about 6′ and adorn purple flowers.  Originated from India.
  • Mammoth Melting Sugar Snow Pea – Very popular, heirloom variety.  Large, sweet pods with vines that grow approx 4′.  Thrives in cooler weather.
  • Oregon Sugar Pod II Snow Pea – Large thick pea pods, grow in a bush plant and is high yielding.  A Green thumb Gardener favorite.

Garden (Shelling) Peas

  • Alaska – Staple variety introduced in the late 1800s.  Plants are about 2-3′ tall.  Pods are 2-3 inches long with smooth light green peas.
  • Lincoln– Also known as the Homesteader., excellent flavor and does well in cool climates.
  • Kelvedon Wonder Garden Pea – Super early dwarf type that produces early.  Perfect variety for container planting that produces a heavy crop of small sweet peas.
  • Little Marvel – Also known as the American Wonder.  an English variety with pods that are about 3-4 inches

Pea Planting & Growing Guidegrowing peas

Sowing Peas

  • Planting Depth: 1″(2.5 cm)
  • Soil Temperature: 40-75°F (4-24°C), germinates best at around 75°F (24°C)
  • Germination Period:  Approx. 14 days
  • Sow Outdoors: As soon as soil can be turned and worked over; late summer for a fall crop
  • Sow Indoors: Possible to do and transplant, but results may vary

Growing Peas

  • Range of pH: 6.0-7.0
  • Best Soil Temperature: 60-65°F (16-18°C)
  • Water Requirements: Moderate until flowers appear, then low
  • Light: Full sun is optimal for the best yield, but does tolerate partial sunlight
  • Nutrients Requirements:
    • Nitrogen (N)= low;
    • Phosphorus (P) = low;
    • Potassium (K) = low
  • Harvest/Flower Period: 10 weeks

Jeremy Starke

About the Author

Jeremy Starke

Jeremy Starke has been gardening since he was very young. He has fond memories of his grandfather saving banana peels and eggs before organic gardening was a thing. He loves to share his passion to help others tend their garden & enjoys the community of gardeners.

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