If you have ever munched on fresh garden peas – you’ll know they are in no comparison to the frozen ones that line the freezers at the grocery store. Fresh peas, straight-off-the-vine are so sweet that your harvest may never make it inside your house!
Peas are one of the first crops you can grow in your vegetable garden, as they are an early spring, cool-weather crop. They’re best grown vertically on a trellis, which is great if you have a small space or have planned to jam your garden full of other veggies. They don’t take up too much space.
The hardest decision to make when growing peas, is which type to grow! Snap peas, shelling peas or snow peas are the three main types of peas but within those there are loads of different varieties (our favorites are listed at the end).
If you learn better by watching, jump over to our “Easy-Pea-sy” Pea Planting video.
Stages of Peas
Stage One: Planting
- Plants peas as soon as the soil can be worked
- Peas grow best when they are directly sowed
- Before you plant, mix some compost or well rotted manure into the soil for a boost of nutrients
- Sow about two seeds per inch and about an inch down into the ground
- Peas can be grown close together, so there’s no need to thin later
- If it rains after you’ve planted and you notice some of the seeds have surfaced, gently poke them back down into the soil
Stage Two: Care & Maintenance
The majority of pea varieties are vigorous climbers so that means they’ll need a trellis to latch onto and climb. The tendrils are side shoots that grow out of the main stem, these are what reach out to grab onto anything they come in contact with.
Choose a trellis that will work with the height your peas will reach at maturity (that height should be listed on the back of the seed pack) so they always have something to support them as they climb. It is also easier to harvest trellised peas.
Get creative with your trellis. If you don’t have a traditional trellis on hand, there are many other options. Stick two bamboo sticks or fallen branches into the ground and weave some rope in between them. You could even use an old tomato cage and plant the peas in a circle around the cage. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. The only two factors that matter with your pea trellis is if the height matches how tall they will grow as well as if it is sturdy enough. Peas can get heavy and can pull down the trellis, especially in the middle.
Pictured below is an old clothing drying rack that someone had thrown out that we repurposed as a pea trellis. It was great! It doesn’t need to be fancy.
After planting, keep an eye on the soil to make sure it never dries out during germination. There should be a nice balance of not too dry but not soaking wet. Excess watering may cause root rot and provoke diseases so if you are planting very early in the spring and it rains a bunch, there’s no need to water more.
Diseases and Pests:
Look out for pea enation disease. It is a virus that is spread by aphids. To avoid this, choose varieties of peas that have been cultivated to be enation-resistant or tolerant. Most seed descriptions will say, “Not enation-resistant” or “ Resistant to enation.” If your peas develop this disease, the plant will stop flowering. No flowers = no peas.
Peas can also be victims of powdery mildew. Especially if you sow a fall crop. One way to try to avoid powdery mildew is with good watering practices. Don’t water the foliage of the plant but concentrate your water at the bottom of the plant so it goes straight to the roots. (This applies to how you should be watering most of your vegetables). Another good practice is to water in the mornings, this will give time for the sun to absorb excess moisture on the leaves of the plant.
Stage Three: Harvesting
Snap and snow peas can be eaten directly with their pea pods intact. However, with shelling peas you open up the pod to eat the peas within. If you are adventurous, save the pods and search online for “Pea Pod Soup.”
Snow Peas: Snow peas are ready to harvest when the pod is flat and developed but the seeds aren’t. The pods can be picked at whatever size you like to eat them best.
Snap Peas: These are ready to harvest when the pea seeds are immature and the pod has fully developed. You can harvest and eat them as early as you’d like!
Shelling Peas: You’ll know when shelling peas are ready to harvest when the pods are full and plump, that indicates that the peas themselves are ready. Once they start filling out and are bright green, pick a few to taste test. If you notice that they’ve become less vibrant in color and the shell looks bumpy it means the peas are getting too large. You can still eat them but they will not taste nearly as good as if picked earlier so keep your eye on them.
Our Favorite Varieties:
Little Marvel is an excellent variety of shelling peas. They’re incredibly sugary tasting and only grow a few feet tall (semi-dwarf) making them perfect for urban gardeners without a lot of space as they can also be planted in containers.
Green Arrow is our all-time favorite shelling pea variety. They are resistant to enation, downy mildew and several other diseases. This variety is best if you are a beginner eager to prevent any chance of disease.
Sugar Ann are crisp with a sweet, delightful flavour. They are one of the earliest peas, which means you’ll be snacking on them before other varieties.
Avalanche are great snow peas that are tender and produce a high yield.