Depending on where you live, growing peas in the fall can be a little tricky.
We love garden peas. They are one of our favorite spring time treats. There is nothing better than June harvested pea’s (Well okay, maybe August Tomatoes). (For a complete growing guide for peas follow this link)
Many people don’t realize that they can be growing peas in the fall as well! In fact, I’ve had many of my readers tell me that peas do better for them in the fall than their spring time plantings. Those folks must have a much different type of fall than we have! Our falls are often hot, dry and short! But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a decent crop of peas in the fall as well. Just be prepared for a little more work and a much smaller harvest.
The key to a growing peas in the fall is the planting date!
Here’s how you find your planting date for fall peas.
- Take a look at the days to maturity on your seed packet.
- Add 10 more days to that total.
- Now find your expected 1st frost date.
- Count back from the frost date the number of days you came up with in step one.
- The result is your planting date for fall peas.
Note: The extra 10 days is to allow for the decreasing amount of sun light in the fall
So let’s use my garden as an example:
Two of our favorite peas to grow are Sugar Snap Peas and Oregon Giant Snow Peas.
Both have a maturity date of 62 days.
So we add 10 days to that: 62 + 10 = 72 (days to maturity)
Our expected first frost for our area is October 1st.
Counting back 72 days we get – (September 30 days, August 31 days, July 11 days) – July 20th
So our expected planting date for these two varieties of peas would be no later that July 20th.
I have found there is very little wiggle room in this planting date! Any later and the peas will not mature before the heavy frosts start showing up for us in October.
Use the same exercise as above to figure out your planting date for your area!
Here are a few other things for you to consider when Growing Peas in the fall:
Peas are a cool weather crop. July is not cool weather and for us, neither is August. This means that your growing pea plants are going to need extra attention. They will require extra water and they would love a good thick layer of mulch to help keep them cool. Try some good organic compost or even some grass clippings from your lawn as your mulch. The mulch will help to keep the soil cool and moist.
The fact that your peas are doing most most of their “growing up” in the heat, means that your plants are NOT going to be as productive in the fall. Expect to harvest 1/2 of what you would get in the spring time. Be sure you are willing to sacrifice the space for less production. But I often find peas are a great addition to fill up the little empty spots that normally show up in are garden as the summer progresses.
I can hear some of you out there grumbling at me! I realize that not everyone has the hot, dry, short falls that we have. Many of you have wonderful long cool falls. If you are blessed to be in an area like that, then you may very well find that your fall pea production is just as good as your spring (or even better). But many of us will struggle with a fall crop, so be sure the space wouldn’t be better used planted with something else.
Also keep in mind that in the spring, peas are pretty frost and cold tolerant. But this is when the plants are young. This is why you can get away with planting peas so early in the fall. But as the plants mature, flower and start to set peas they become less tolerant to frost. So be prepared to offer them some protection from the frost. This protection will come in the form of a heavy fabric row cover that you can throw over them in the evening and remove during the day. Or even better you could put up a simple hoop house with some PVC and a little plastic (learn more here).
The declining sunlight is also a huge problem for fall pea production. You are in a race against time (and fading sunlight). So if you want to be growing peas in the fall be sure to get them in by the planting date you calculated using the formula above. You want your crop to mature before your day length drops much below 11:30 hours a day, for our latitude that happens roughly the 10th of October. The later in the year you get, the less likely your crop will mature.
One other consideration is variety. I have found it is much harder (but not impossible) to get shelling peas to maturity in the fall. We have switched our fall plantings to Sugar Snap and Snow peas. Why? Because in both cases you can eat the immature pods. So really all you need is to get those plants to the flowering stage and you are home free. Every day past flowering means larger pods for you to eat. If the weather holds you may be able to “shell” the sugar snap peas if you want, but in either case (sugar snap or snow) you can always eat the pods no matter the size, so you get something from your efforts.
So if you have some space in your garden that has opened up during July, a fall crop of peas is a great idea. We always end up planting peas where our garlic was planted. I’m sure you can find a spot you can use for Growing peas in the fall as well!
I’d love to hear from my readers on this post. How many of you grow peas in the fall? Any advice you’d like to share? How about a variety you have found does extra well in the fall? Please share in the comments section below!