If a girl finds 9 peas in a pod, the next bachelor she meets will become her husband.
Even if this old saying doesn’t motivate you enough to get into your gardening shoes, the prospect of crunchy and sweet peas, fresh off the bush, should be enough to get you going. Read on to learn how to grow peas in your own garden.
For many, the first introduction to peas is through their frozen variety, which can easily be found in any grocery store. Frozen peas bought from a grocery store are dependable and efficient, but they are not as good as the fresh grown green peas from a garden.
Mostly a cool season crop, peas were originally cultivated as dry seeds, which are consumed as pulses. It was only in the early 17th century when garden peas became a trend.
Green peas on your dinner table means easy nutrition for the entire family as they are rich in vitamins A, B6, C, and K and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and iron. They also have high fiber content and contain lutein.
Growing green peas in your kitchen garden can also make the soil nitrogen-rich, which is beneficial in growing heavy feeders such as tomatoes and cabbages. To have a healthy crop, protect peas from pests and diseases explained below.
Pests that Affect the Peas
- In case of aphid infestation, look for signs of insects such as lady beetles and lacewings and their larvae as they are natural enemies of aphids. Plant a variety of flowers and herbs in your garden to encourage beneficial insect populations. (1)
You can also wash off aphids from plants by spraying water early in the day. Repeat till the plants are free of pests. If none of these methods work, you can spray insecticidal soap or neem oil as an organic last resort.
- Your peas may also be plagued by Mexican bean beetles and pea moths. Pea moths, brown in color, love to lay their eggs on flowering peas. The insect-proof mesh should be used to deter these pests.
- If you’re dealing with mice in your garden, place traps when sowing the seeds as these mice tend to eat the freshly sown seeds.
- Woodchucks, mainly found in North America, can also damage peas in the garden.
Diseases that Affect the Peas
- Poorly drained soil may give way to diseases such as fusarium wilt and root rot in plants. These diseases are often marked by stunted growth and yellowing, wilting of the lower leaves in the plant. Soil drainage should be improved to keep these diseases at bay.
- Powdery mildew is a fungal infection that can weaken your plants and affect flowering and pod production. It is characterized by powdery white deposits on the leaves. Water peas early in the day and avoid wetting the foliage to prevent powdery mildew.
- Rotating pea crops every 1 or 2 years can help you avoid the build-up of soil-borne diseases.
There are many varieties of peas that you can grow. You can go for garden peas that need to be shelled or snow peas that can be eaten as a whole-pods and all. Snap peas can be picked full or flat. “Snowbird,” “Sugar Ann,” and “Green Arrow” are some good varieties that you can try out.
Peas are either vining types or dwarf/bush varieties. Vining peas will need some sort of trellising to grow on, while dwarf or bush varieties do not need any additional support. Vining peas are beautiful and tend to have higher yields, but if you do not have a trellis for them make sure to get a dwarf or bush variety. Seeds should have this information on the packet.
Owing to their shallow root system, pea vines can also be grown in neatly arranged pots and planters on a porch or patio. Because they have sensitive roots, peas do not like to be transplanted and should be planted in their permanent location.
The most important thing to keep in mind when growing peas is that they need cooler weather to thrive. They can tolerate a little frost, but start to suffer once temperatures go above 70 degrees F, so do not plant them in the hot months of summer! As long as you keep certain pointers in mind, growing green peas should be easy peasy. (2)
Steps to Grow Peas in Your Own Garden
Things you’ll need:
- Garden pressure spray pump or regular watering can (for watering)
- Pea seeds (to start pea plants)
- Gardening gloves
- Peat moss (maintains moisture in soil)
- Vermicompost or any other organic compost
- Fine perlite (improves drainage and aeration in soil)
Step 1: Prepare the planting bed
A fertile, sandy loam that drains well and is slightly acidic (pH 6–7) is best suited to grow green peas. Peas are not very fussy and will accept most soils, the exception being heavy, hard-packed and impermeable clay.
The soil in the planting bed must be worked loose while it’s still moist. Schedule the planting when the soil becomes dry enough not to clump together. If the soil tends to stay wet for long, consider making raised beds.
- Prepare the planting bed for peas by adding a handful of peat moss, organic compost, and fine perlite to each square foot of the planting bed.
- Mix the amendments into the topsoil by hand and remove the lumps in the soil.
Compost will provide the required nutrients to the soil, and peat moss will help the soil retain and balance the moisture. Perlite will keep the soil loose, make it well-draining, and keep it from compacting together.
Step 2: Sow the seeds into the prepared planting bed
- Insert a finger into the soil to make a hole that is 1 or 2 inches deep.
- Put a couple of seeds into the hole and cover it loosely with soil.
- Sow the pea seeds throughout the planting bed about 4 inches apart. If planting in rows, the rows should be about 18 inches apart.
- Water the area with a light shower from a garden pressure spray pump or watering can.
- If you have some other herbs or greens growing in your garden, mark the planting site with garden labels to identify the plants in their early growth period.
- If you’re planting a tall or vine variety of peas, establish trellis, lattice, stakes or bamboo canes to support the plant in its later growth period. This is best done when planting pea seeds, so as to not affect fragile roots later. You may also try a tepee or tripod support system or a frame with wires.
Step 3: Oversee plant growth
- In most cases, the seeds should germinate within two weeks. The temperature required for germination ranges from 40°F to 85° Optimum soil temperature for germination is 75°F. The germination may take long (about 4–5 weeks) if the soil temperatures are as low as 40°F.
- While green peas can tolerate partial shade, the plants yield best when grown under full sun.
- Peas need a consistent moisture level for favorable growth and flavorful yield. You may also go for deep watering once a week.
- As peas tend to have a shallow root system, opt for regular but sparse watering during the early growth phase to strengthen roots. However, do not let the soil dry out at any cost, especially during the blossoming period, as this will severely hamper pod production. If required, water daily when pods mature in hot weather.
- Flowering pea plants sometimes need to be protected from late frost, as it can give rise to deformed pods.
- Judicial fertilizing is advised as peas are light feeders. Excess nitro will give way to lush foliage at the expense of pods. Phosphorus and potassium are the two nutrients essential for green peas.
- Plants can start flowering a month after germination but may take longer. Once they start flowering, the mature pods can be ready for harvesting in about 20 days.
Step 4: Harvest delightful green pea pods
- Harvest the filled-out pea pods when enough of them appear on the plant. Keep the plants well picked to encourage more production.
- To harvest the pea pods, simply secure the vine with one hand and snap off the pod with your other hand.
- Exercise caution while harvesting, as callous picking may damage the delicate vine—applying undue force single-handedly may even pull the plant out with its roots.
- Pick the peas early in the morning after the dew has dried for a crispy yield.
- Refrigerate immediately to keep them from becoming starchy. Freshly picked green peas can be kept for about 5 days when refrigerated. You can also enjoy your produce yearlong by blanching and freezing the shelled peas.
- Once you’ve had a significant amount of filled-out green pea pods, you can also harvest flowers and tender leafy shoots for consumption.
- The plants stop yielding after the temperatures soar above 80° You can let the last of the pods mature and dry to harvest dry peas that can also be used as seeds for next crop.
Tips for growing green peas
- If you have environmental concerns regarding the use of peat moss, it can be substituted with coconut coir.
- You may add a little amount of bonemeal to boost the phosphorus content of the soil.
- If any pea seeds wash out during watering the freshly planted bed, push them back in with chopsticks or similar tool.
- Mulching can be done when the plants are about 6 inches tall to discourage weeds and help the soil retain moisture and keep cool.
- Green peas can be intercropped with some fast-growing cool season crops such as spinach and radishes.
- The shelled pods of the green peas can be easily composted to yield nitrogen-rich compost.
- Let the plants remain in the beds till they stop yielding. They will contribute to the nitrogen levels in the soil as long as they’re alive. Let the roots remain in the soil even after pulling out the plants to boost the nitrogen content further in the soil.
1. Growing Guide: Peas. Cornell University. http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene9697.html.
2. Peas. Couch grass/RHS Gardening. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/vegetables/peas.