Growing Peas in your Garden

Growing peas in your garden is one of the easiest things you can do in your garden. This post will tell you every thing you need to know about growing peas.

Growing Peas

The gardening season is getting so close I can almost feel it!!  As the first of March approaches I start getting really excited to get planting!  And one of the very first seeds we plant in the garden is peas.  So it’s time to get off our tails and get planning.  Here’s everything you have ever wanted to know about growing peas.

Types of Peas

There are 4 main types of peas, Shelling (sometimes call garden peas), Snow, Snap and dry.

Shelling peas are the type we are all use to.  These peas are grown strictly for the “pea” inside the pods and the pods themselves are tough and uneatable.  Shelling peas are the most work at harvest time because you have to shell them to remove the peas from the pod.  This is a pretty manual process and is best done with a couple of adults and 3 or 4 kids.  The adults are there to keep the kids from eating all the peas!!

Shelling Peas

Snap peas have a more tender pod that can be eaten, but the pods are allowed to develop like a shelling pea so that the peas inside are mature as well.  Snap peas are perfect for stir fry’s!!

Snow peas are grown for their eatable pods.  They are usually harvested while the pods are still small and the peas inside are immature.  Snow peas usually have a very broad flat pod.  They are great in stir fry’s, but don’t forget to eat them raw as well.  Our kids love May and June because they can have a big handful of raw snow peas for lunch every day!

Drying peas are grown for the peas.  They are allowed to stay on the plant for much longer than the other types of peas so that the pods and peas dry out.  The peas are then shelled and are great in soups.

Cool Weather

Peas are a cool weather veggie.  So what does that mean?  Peas prefer temperatures between 55° and 75° F.  Peas really start to suffer when the temperatures get above 80° F.  You need to get them in early so that they can mature before the real heat starts!  Maturity dates for most varieties of peas range between 60 to 70 days from germination, so use that as a guide when planting.  Our March 15th planted peas are usually ready to eat beginning the end of May through mid June.

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Soil & Sun

Growing peas prefer a well drained soil, with lots of organic matter.  Work 2 inches of compost into the top 4 to 6 inches of the soil in the fall, then the bed is ready for planting as soon as things dry out in the spring.

Peas also need full sun.  Be careful to avoid parts of the garden that are shaded by trees or structures while the sun is still low in the sky during the spring.

Planting Times

Because of their love for cool weather, you will traditionally be growing peas in the early spring.   In our zone 5/6 garden we target March 15th each year.  That of course depends a lot on the weather and soil conditions.  Peas will germinate with soil temperatures as low as 40°F but they prefer soil temperatures between 55°and 65°F.  If your soil temps are between 55° and 65° then your seeds should germinate in about 7 to 10 days.  Generally accepted planting times for peas in the northern hemisphere are between March 15th and May 1st.  That of course depends a lot on your latitude and elevation.  In warmer climates peas can be planted in the fall and grown over the winter and planted again early in the spring.

Soil Thermometer

I bought this little soil thermometer for only $5.  It comes in really handy for telling me if it is time to get seeds planted.  In this photo its reading 40°F my bare minimum for germination.  But 40° means a slow germination, so here’s a little trick I learned in my master gardener class.

Cover With Plastic

Cover the bed you are going to be planting in with clear plastic for a couple of weeks before you plant.  This will bring the soil temps way up and also keep the soil from getting soaked in a late winter snow storm.  Be sure to use clear plastic, it lets the UV rays into the soil and keeps the heat in.

Planting your peas

The night before you plan on planting your peas I suggest you soak the peas in water.  This softens up the dried up seeds and promotes quicker germination.

Kids Love to plant peas

Plant your peas ½ to 1 inch deep and about 1 inch apart.  Most growing guides recommend planting in rows 12-24 inches apart.  My personal opinion is 24 inches is way too far apart.  12 inch spacing between rows is perfect and allows the plants in the rows to support each other as they grow.

Peas on Tomato Cage

Snap peas and sugar peas are usually taller growing and require some support.  I will often just use my tomato cages for my snow peas as the peas will be done long before the tomatoes need the cages.  Shelling or garden peas are usually self supporting.  I have found that at the very end of there production the plants will fall over.  If you want to help avoid this you can simply run some garden twine between some sticks to offer them some support.

Caring for your peas

Weeding is important; keep those weeds!  This is especially important during the first 6 weeks of growth when the plants will be most susceptible to competition from weeds.  Mulches, compost or even grass clippings will help with weeds.

Frequent water is vital for peas.  Be sure you keep the soil moist.  The nice thing about growing peas is Mother Nature usually helps with the watering in the spring, but be sure to watch them close between rain storms.  Water is most important while the peas are flowering.  Be sure to keep the soil moist during the time the pea pods are forming.

If you have amended your soil well with compost and other organic materials you shouldn’t need to fertilize your peas.  In fact, never fertilize with a nitrogen fertilizer.  Nitrogen will cause excessive leaf growth and will often delay flowering risking your entire crop.  Most peas actually take nitrogen from the air and “fix” it in their roots via the aide of soil bacteria in their roots.  Because of this, planting peas will often improve the soil for the crops that follow.

Harvesting

The appearance of flowers on your pea plants is the indication that your harvest is coming soon.  You should expect your first harvests about 3 weeks after the flowers appear.  Be sure to harvest often, every day in fact.  With most pea varieties the harvest will last about 3 weeks.

The first week will have a small amount harvested, followed by a week or so of huge harvests, which is then followed by a few days of a low trailing off harvest.  You can of course extend your pea harvest by staggering your plantings by a few weeks.  But I prefer to get it all over with at once!!  Expect about 20 pounds of shelled peas from 100 feet of plants.  So for example the bed I showed you above is 25 feet long.  We plant 3 rows of peas in that bed and end up with around 12 to 15 pounds.

Harvest Peas

You begin to harvest your shelling and snap peas when the pods have swelled to almost a round shape.  You want the pods to be full and solid but not bulging.  The photo above shows the various stages of pod development.  From left to right:  First on the left, this one is just getting started way to soon to pick, second from the left is close but not quite ready, the middle one is perfect, second from the right is still okay but is getting a little old, the last one the right is too old if you’ve waited this long you’ll be disappointed.

Preserving Your Harvest

Of course you want to eat as many of your peas fresh as you can!!  There is nothing better than a fresh picked pea either eaten raw or cooked.  But peas are actually one of the easiest veggies to preserve.  Peas can be canned (but you MUST use a pressure cooker), dried or our favorite frozen.

Frozen Peas

For shelling peas we simply shell them, wash them and freeze them on a cookie sheet, then put them in a bag after they are frozen.  Follow this link for a quick tutorial on how we freeze peas.

For Snap and Snow peas you must first blanch them for 2-3 minutes in a steamer before freezing.

Pests and Diseases

Peas are actually one of the least disease & pest prone plants I know.  I’ve never really had any problems with peas.  They are however susceptible to a few pests and diseases.  If you would like more information about these pests and diseases I will refer you to this excellent publication by Utah State University.

Birds can be a big problem to growing peas.  You are growing peas early in the spring when there is not a lot of food for the birds.  I have seen birds dig up new planted seeds.  Also birds will eat the newly sprouted seedlings.  In our area Quail seem to be the biggest offenders.  You can easily deter them by covering your beds with a good fabric row cover until the plants have grown to about 6 inches in height.

A few other thoughts on growing peas

Peas are self pollinating and pollination on most varieties actually occurs before the plants flower.  Because of this peas are one of the easiest plants to save seeds.  Very little, if any, cross pollination occurs when growing peas.  If you have planted an open pollinated or heirloom variety you can simply let some of the peas ripen on the plant and save them for use next year!

You can also try growing peas in the fall.  Your success will vary a lot with fall crops.  For us here in Utah planting time for fall peas is between July 15th and August 1st.  That’s a very hot time of year for us so the plants are usually under a lot of stress.  That causes our crop size and over all quality to be pretty poor.  Most years we don’t bother (although we do plant snow peas some years).  Also we always seem to go from summer to winter and pretty much skip fall around here, so we some years don’t even have time for the pods to mature.  But if you live in an area that has long cool falls then by all means plant a big crop of peas in the fall as well!

Pea Harvest

I’ve given you the basics on growing peas, so get out there and get your peas planted.

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36 Comments

  1. Daphne February 25, 2015 6:09 am Reply

    I can’t eat legumes right now, so I’m going to be trying pea shoots this spring. Though I’ll let some of the peas themselves form for my townhouse mates.

    http://daphnesdandelions.blogspot.com/

    • Mr. Stoney February 25, 2015 9:27 pm Reply

      Dang, I do not envy your food allergies!!

  2. Lee February 25, 2015 11:38 am Reply

    Peas are my absolute favorite vegetable. I eat them while I am shelling and usually don’t have many left. Can’t wait to get them planted and growing this year.

    http://www.tennessee-homestead.com

    • Mr. Stoney February 25, 2015 9:26 pm Reply

      That’s why we have to have an adult present when the kids are shelling, otherwise none would make it into the freezer!! 🙂

  3. Mandi February 25, 2015 12:03 pm Reply

    Lots of great information! I just started peas indoors, so I pinned this!

    Coming over from Homestead Blog Hop!

    http://www.ourlifeouthere.com

    • Mr. Stoney February 25, 2015 9:25 pm Reply

      Wow, that’s cool. I’ve never started peas indoors. We grow so many we would never have the space for the 100’s of plants we would need!!

  4. Margaret February 25, 2015 5:22 pm Reply

    I’ll be doing a spring & fall planting this year. I’m still trying to get the timing right on both of those.

    http://homegrown-adventuresinmygarden.blogspot.com

    • Mr. Stoney February 25, 2015 9:23 pm Reply

      Not sure what zone you live in. We are a zone 5/6 and our spring planting time is March 15th to March 31st. Fall planting time would be July 15th to August 1st.

  5. Shelly March 3, 2015 8:58 am Reply

    What a great post on growing peas. We have been having warmer weather than usual this year and I have my peas in already. Where we live I usually try to plant the peas by mid February, if the soil is dry enough. I have a few peas poking up through the soil, I did lose a few seeds to the birds. They love to dig them up and eat them. Thanks for sharing at the Tuesday Garden Party.

    http://www.frugalfamilyhome.com/home/tuesday-garden-party/tuesday-garden-party-february-17th

    • Mr. Stoney March 7, 2015 6:04 pm Reply

      We have had a really warm winter as well. I’ve been really tempted to get them it, but the March 15th planting rule is a pretty hard and fast one for us here in Utah. Any sooner and I risk a big cold spell and either loosing the plants or having the seeds sit and rot in the soil! But only one more week!! 🙂

  6. Christine | Once Upon a Time in a Bed of Wildflowers March 5, 2015 5:15 pm Reply

    Wow! This is such an excellent post full of great information!
    Peas are some of my favorite vegetables. 🙂 I chose this post as my featured post this week for the From the Farm Blog Hop. I hope you’ll be back to party with us!
    ~ Christine

    http://onceuponatimeinabedofwildflowers.com/

    • Mr. Stoney March 7, 2015 6:02 pm Reply

      Thanks Christine! Very awesome!

  7. lisa M March 5, 2015 7:47 pm Reply

    Oh I love peas! I tried to grow them last year but only planted a few plants….and ate them off the vine every day! lol I never got enough to cook. I’ll have to plant lots this year!

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. I hope to see you again this week!

    ~Lisa M

    http://www.FeathersInTheWoods.com

  8. Terri Presser March 7, 2015 12:29 pm Reply

    Thank you for sharing this great informative post at Good Morning Mondays. There are some great points in there. I have never heard about soaking the peas before sowing them, very interesting. Blessings

    http://darlingdownsdiaries.com

    • Mr. Stoney March 7, 2015 6:01 pm Reply

      Yes Terri, It sure helps your peas to germinate quicker. It softens them up and gets the whole process rolling along quicker!!

  9. Lani March 17, 2015 9:23 pm Reply

    Fantastic article. We planted our peas today! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    http://Wildwestgardeners.blogspot.com

    • Mr. Stoney March 17, 2015 10:44 pm Reply

      Thanks Lani, this article has been one of our most popular!!

  10. Fiona Urquhart December 17, 2015 1:22 pm Reply

    Excellent idea’s love to hear more

  11. Donna McDaniel February 17, 2016 3:12 pm Reply

    I line in middle Tennessee up on the Cumberland Plateau and have had trouble with peas. How soon can I get them in the ground do you think? We have planted as soon as mid February but never got a good enough crop to can any.

    http://facebook

    • Mr. Stoney February 17, 2016 3:58 pm Reply

      Donna, Thanks for the question. Do you happen to know what hardiness zone you live in? That would help me. My usual recommendation for my area is to plant your peas about 2 months before your last frost date. So for me our last frost is around May 15th so we plant peas on March 15th. Of course that date will vary greatly depending on your last frost date. Tennessee is quite a bit further South that we are so I’m sure your date will be earlier.

  12. Emma March 28, 2016 9:50 am Reply

    I absolutely love peas! Thank you for the wonderfully detailed article. 🙂

    https://trunnelbrookfarm.wordpress.com

    • Mr. Stoney March 28, 2016 6:01 pm Reply

      Thanks Emma! I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Happy Gardening!

  13. Shana June 29, 2016 8:19 am Reply

    This is super helpful. This is my first year growing peas and I have loved them! The estimation of how many pounds per length of row is especially helpful. Will put that in to action next year for sure.

    http://www.thisgracefullgarden.com

    • Mr. Stoney June 29, 2016 9:56 am Reply

      Glad I could help!!

  14. Anjummalik1960@gmail.com January 13, 2017 11:45 pm Reply

    Excellent, Beautiful, informative,Please tell me the details of time spane between sowing ,germination,flowering,& harvesting. Thanks

    http://Anjummalik1960@gmail

    • Mr. Stoney January 14, 2017 2:28 pm Reply

      I sow in early March, Germination in about a week to 10 days. They flower in May and harvest is finished about mid June.

  15. Tyson March 17, 2017 10:37 am Reply

    Donyou ever sprout your seeds before planting? I’m in Northern ND and have a VERY short season. Wondering if that would help get them going faster.
    Thanks.

    • Mr. Stoney March 17, 2017 2:00 pm Reply

      Tyson,
      It could help if your soil is still cold. Peas like to have soil temps of 60 ish to germinate. This is something I have never tired. Do a little research on it and give it a go! At the most you would waste a few dollars in seeds. And it may help gain some time. Peas are cool season crops and should to well in your cold climate.

      • Tyson March 17, 2017 2:48 pm Reply

        Thanks for the reply. I’m new to gardening and want to give my garden the best chance at “survival”! Maybe I’ll try some both ways.

  16. Victoria D. May 19, 2017 1:31 pm Reply

    Very informative article. In answer to Tyson, yes you can pre-sprout your seeds. I did this this year because I live in the South and it get really hot really early. So far, so good.

    http://bizzylizzythefoodlover2.blogspot.com

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