gardening about farming Tips and Tricks

Growing Peas From Sowing to Harvest

Written by Dr. Shaun Murphy

Can anything match the flavor of just-picked garden peas? No, of course, it can’t!. Welcome to farmingocean.

Pea Varieties

  • In return for a sunny spot on your plot, peas offer up perfect pods of unrivaled taste.  
  • Choose from a range of garden peas for shelling, as well as peas with edible pods including snow peas or mange tout, with their flat thin-walled pods, and snap or sugar snap peas,  with thicker crunchier and more rounded pods.
  • Peas sold as early varieties mature quickest, ready to pick as soon as three months from sowing, while main crop varieties take up to a month longer. 
  • Height can vary too, with bush or dwarf peas typically reaching 1.5 to 3 feet or 45 to 90cm tall, and pole or climbing piece stretching as tall as 6 feet or 2 meters plus.  

How to sow Peas?

  • Let’s get on and sow them, but first a word of caution: mice love peas and pigeons like nipping away at the tender young shoots.
  • This is one reason why it’s worth showing them undercover,  and an indoor windowsill would be just fine, so you can keep a watch on them.
  • Sow the seeds into plug trays like this. Begin by filling trays with an all-purpose potting mix, pushing the mix right down into each cell to ensure a good fill.
  • Now make depressions into the potting mix with your fingers and sow your pea seeds, dropping in two seeds per cell.
  • Once you’re done, cover them over and give them really thorough water to really soak the potting mix through.
  • You can sow any time from late winter, in which case a little added protection from the cold will be welcome,  then right through to early summer.
  • If you’re in a hot climate, you’ll find the best results come from an autumn sowing, which will avoid the intense heat of summer – something this cooler season crop will definitely appreciate.
  • An alternative to growing in plug trays is to sow into wide flat trays like this old mushroom tray here.
  • The advantage of this becomes clear very early on this season because you can first grow them for a delicious cut of pea shoots, before growing them on to transplant outside to grow on for pea pods.
  • Two crops for the effort of one! And don’t forget the gutter sowing method either. Fill lengths of guttering with potting mix, space out your seeds evenly,  then cover them over.
  • Germinate and grow on then, once they’ve grown onto a plantable size, carefully  slide them out into their final growing positions into pre-made trenches.
  • So simple – so easy! Of course, peas can also be sown directly where they are to grow, but wait until the soil has warmed up a little so there’s less chance of the seeds rotting in the cold and wet.
  • Sow into well-drained,  fertile soil in a sunny position.
  • Draw out a wide trench about two inches or five centimeters deep,  then space your seeds two to three inches or five to seven centimeters apart along the bottom.  Cover them over and water if it’s dry.
Growing Peas From Sowing to Harvest

Planting Peas

  • While peas are cold tolerant, it’s worth gradually acclimatizing them to outside conditions over the course of a week before transplanting them.  
  • Plant them in a single or double row so light can reach all of the plants. Peas started off in plug trays, pots, or toilet tissue tubes that should be set about 3 inches or seven centimeters apart. 
  • If you’re in Europe or Canada you may have had that sinking experience of shelling open a pea pod, only to find the peas themselves riddled with tiny holes and the frass or poo of the pea moth caterpillar.
  • Your best chance of avoiding it is to sow right at the start of the season in the bid to avoid the moth’s main flying period.
  • These peas here were originally grown for pea shoots and then planted out. Peas really don’t like having their roots disturbed so I carefully teased apart chunks of plants and then planted them into a pre-made trench.  
  • They’re supported against this old cradle here onto which I’ve secured this wire mesh,  and the whole thing is held upright by these canes pushed into the ground firmly.
  • As the peas grow  I’ll run some twine right the way around the frame then, as they grow up, tuck them into that support so they don’t flop over in the wind, though they’ll soon grab hold of the mesh with their tendrils.  
  • You could also use twiggy branches to support your peas, netting, or mesh stretch between posts or, for very tall varieties, an A-frame made from bamboo canes with horizontal lines of twine run between them
Growing Peas From Sowing to Harvest

Caring for Peas

  • Once they’re planted and settled peas grow quickly, so keep the soil moist to support this growth.
  • This is particularly important once they come into flower –   you want those pods to keep coming after all. Moist soil will also help to prevent the fungal disease powdery mildew.
  • If in doubt, do the finger test – sink a finger down into the soil to about the second knuckle to check how damp the soil is.
  • If it’s dry water, aiming the water at the base of the vines.  Keep an eye out for weeds also, and hike out any that you come across,  and keep the vines tucked into their supports if they do need that helping hand.
Growing Peas From Sowing to Harvest

When to Pick and Store Peas?

  • Harvesting is always a joy. Pick once you can feel the peas firmly through the pods.
  • Smaller peas will be the sweetest, while peas left to grow to their full size offer the most substantial yields. 
  • Snow peas, mange tout and snap peas can be harvested whenever they reach the desired size and thickness  – usually at around three inches or seven centimeters long.
  • Like any fruiting or podding vegetable, the more you pick the more will come. Pick regularly, and you can expect plants to crop for up to three weeks.
  • Enjoy them as fresh as you can for the very best taste.
  • Just eating them raw,  straight out of the pods is delicious, or shell the peas, blanch in boiling water for one minute,  then chill, dry, and freeze in airtight bags or tubs.
  • Peas are one of the gardener’s little treats – sweet and oh-so moreish! If you’ve grown peas before, please let me know which varieties you especially enjoyed in the comments below.

Thank You.

About the author

Dr. Shaun Murphy