How To Grow Peas
Plant Type: Annual
Scientific Name: Pisum sativum
Light: Full Sun
Soil Type: Well draining soil
Soil Temperature: 40° – 70°
ph Range: 5.5 – 7.0
Plant (Payson): March – May / August – September
Planting Method: Seed
Germination(days): 9 – 13 (see below)
Transplant: available but not preferred
Plant Characteristic: Climbing – provide support
Maturity(days): 21 days after flowering
Common Pests: Aphids
Common Diseases: Powdery Mildew, Seed/Root Rot
The pea is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world. Peas were found in archeological excavations dating to the Bronze Age and Egyptians. Peas are part of the legume family of vegetables, which extract nitrogen from the air and store it in little nodules along their roots. Peas are best-suited to cooler temperate climates. When temperatures exceed 20°C (70°F), most varieties of peas will stop producing pods—however, heat tolerant varieties are available.
Peas will grow in most soils, however, they prefer a medium well-drained soil with plenty of organic material. Do not add nitrogen to the soil before planting (or after) – like other legumes peas extract nitrogen from the air sufficient for their needs. A nitrogen-rich soil will cause lots of leafy growth, but a reduced crop of peas. Hint: If you practice crop rotation, plant peas in another area of your garden next year.
Choosing where to plant:
Select a site that gets full sun and has soil with a PH of 6.00 to 6.8.
Choosing a variety:
There are three types: English or garden peas (only the seeds are eaten), Chinese or snow peas (picked when the pods have reached full size but the seeds are still small and eaten pod and all), and snap peas (picked when both pod and seeds are mature; both are edible).
If you’ve never grown peas before, try an early bush type, and if you have limited garden space plant a climbing pea to maximize yield while using only a few feet of garden space. If you really like peas, plant early, mid-season, and late varieties to get maximum pea production. Check maturity dates, plan and plant accordingly.
Because the seeds germinate so readily, and because you’ll want to make successive plantings, there’s no real advantage to buying starter plants.
When to Plant:
Sow peas directly in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked, usually about five weeks before the last expected frost.
To get peas in the ground and germinating as early as possible in the spring, plant them in raised beds. The raised beds warm up faster than the surrounding ground. If planting early (February) it is best to cover the soil prior to sowing to warm it before sowing your seeds. Leave the seedlings covered and remove cover when danger of hard frost has passed. Another suggestion for those who want to try early planting is to buy a poly-tunnel to protect seedlings. As a rule of thumb, veteran gardeners recommend planting peas by St. Patrick’s Day.
If you want a fall harvest plant peas 8 to 10 weeks before the first frost date. You will have to protect your plants from the summer heat & wind and water them regularly until temperatures cool.
Time to germination depends on the temperature. If it is below 50 degrees, it may take 4 weeks for the seeds to germinate. If the temperature is 70 degrees, you can expect germination in 7-10 days.
How to Plant::
Soak the peas in water overnight to soften the outside shell. Plant the seeds an inch deep, 3 to 4 inches apart, in rows about 2-3 feet apart. Install supports for peas – even dwarf varieties – when you plant them, and start training the vines upward as soon as they’re long enough to climb.
All peas, even the dwarf varieties, grow best with support. Peas are productive and less susceptible to rot if given some support. they are “natural climbers” so little training is necessary, just show them where to climb and stand back and watch them go. Plant taller varieties, along a fence, trellises or cages. For a simple and inexpensive trellis you can tie untreated twine between posts. at the end of the season, just cut down the twine, pea vines and all, and toss on the compost pile.
CARE & GROWING
Because peas are shallow feeders, mulch is essential to keep the soil around the roots moist and cool. When the seedlings are two inches tall, apply a mulch of clean straw, chopped leaves, or compost. As the pea plants mature, you can add more mulch to keep them moist and cool.
Keep plants moist but not soggy.
Peas are light feeders and don’t generally require fertilizer. In fact, too much nitrogen will make the plants develop lush foliage at the expense of pod production and be more susceptible to frost damage. If your plants need additional nutrients use liquid seaweed or compost tea applied twice during the growing season.
Like other members of the legume family, peas have a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobia bacteria that colonize the roots of the plants and help them ‘fix’ nitrogen in the soil. After soaking the seeds overnight in lukewarm water, drain them and sprinkle an inoculant over them just before planting. This will boost the pea plants and produce higher yields. You can purchase soil inoculant from your local nursery or a reputable online gardening website.
Once you have your garden soil inoculant, plant your peas. When you plant peas place a good amount of the legume inoculants in the hole with the seed. You cannot over inoculate, so do not be afraid of adding too much to the hole. The real danger will be that you will add too little garden soil inoculant and the bacteria will not take. Once you have finished adding your pea inoculant, cover both the seed and the inoculant with soil.
Weeding is as essential for peas as for any other vegetable. They are “thieves” of the nutrients your peas need to form delicious pods or peas. So be diligent in your weeding practices or mulch your peas to not only prevent weeds but to keep the soil cool as the air temperatures rise.
Keep plants moist but not soggy.
Powdery mildew is the most common disease of peas, usually striking as the weather warms. Spacing your plants and trellising to improve air circulation and using soaker systems to water your peas will aid in the prevention of the disease.
Seeds decaying or roots rotting are also possible. Improve your soil drainage and plant in a different area from the previous season. Check soil temperatures before planting.
To pick shell peas, check the pods by eye and feel. If the pod is round, has a nice sheen, and is bright green, it’s ready. If the seeds have made ridges on the pod and the pod is a dull green, it’s past its prime.
You can pick snap and snow snap peas at any time, but they’re tastiest when the pods is still flexible and the peas feel small when you squeeze the pods. Pick snow peas before the peas become hard. For dry peas allow peas to mature and dry. If you allow the peas to mature and dry, the plants will slow pea production.
Words of advice: Pick peas carefully, because the root system is very shallow it is easy to damage the plant or pull it out of the soil. Either snip with a garden scissor or use two hands to pick the pods—use one hand to hold the plant and the other to remove the pod.
Frequent harvesting will increase yield: Pick every other day if possible to keep the pea plants in production. Picking frequency definitely affects total yields. Pick any pods that are overly mature; if left on the vine, the plant will think it is time to stop producing new pods.