How to Grow Peas

Add this small but rewarding vegetable to your garden.

Peas Grow On The Vine
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While peas are small and sometimes overlooked in vegetable garden collections, these little pods pack a lot of punch. They are easy to grow, a solid source of protein, very tasty, and perfect for small spaces. This is also a great veggie to grow with kids because you get pretty quick results; the harvest time is 60 to 70 days, which is a relatively short growing season. As an early-season crop, you can be munching on peas by late spring or early summer, depending on when you decide to sow your seeds.

Below is a complete guide to growing your own peas, including varieties, care tips, and advice on dealing with pests.

How to Plant Peas

Peas are easy to grow and start, whether you choose to sow seeds directly in the ground or start with an already established plant.

Growing From Seed

Plant peas in early- to mid-spring, before the last frost date has passed. Sow the seeds directly in the ground, making sure they are 2 inches apart. You can grow rows of peas or tuck them wherever you have room. Since they don’t need a lot of space to grow, gardeners will often plant them between other veggies in the garden.

Growing From Starter Plants

You can start peas indoors to get a jump on the season. Keep in mind, though, that peas don’t like their roots disturbed. Be sure to use biodegradable pots you can drop directly into the ground. Pea plants are also often available at local garden centers. But go early — once they sell out for the season, they’re gone.

With plants, add to your garden, making sure the roots remain intact. Then, water thoroughly.

Growing Peas in Container

That's right, there's more — grow peas on your deck, patio, or even your windowsill indoors using containers. You can usually fit 8 to 10 pea plants in a single container, depending on its size. Sow seeds directly or use plants in a container that have good drainage and soil. Make sure you position it in a place where there is lots of sunshine.

Pea Plant Care

For the most part, peas are low maintenance. The right amount of sunlight and plenty of water will help you make the most of your harvest.

Light

Peas can tolerate some light shade, but they do best in areas that receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. If you plant with other veggies in your garden, be sure not to put them under a plant that will get large or shade them, like tomatoes.

Soil and Nutrients

Peas will grow in a wide range of soil, as long as it's well-drained. These veggies tend to do better in a soil with a higher pH. Also, it never hurts to add a little compost and organic matter, both before the season starts and as plants get established.

Water

When you first plant peas, you can actually help speed up germination by soaking the seeds overnight before you plant. After planting, you can water them regularly just as you would the rest of the plants in your garden. Keep in mind that watering early in the morning and directly to the base of the plant is always best.

Temperature and Humidity

In general, peas grow best at temperatures of 70 degrees F and up during the day and no lower than 50 degrees F at night. It is sometimes wise to wait until you have consistent warm days before moving plants or seedlings outside.

Growing Peas Throughout the Year

While peas are typically planted during the spring and harvested in the summer, it is possible to grow them during other times of the year. Plant in mid summer for a second or even third harvest before fall. You could also try growing indoors anytime for a fun experiment.

Common Pests and Diseases

One of the biggest challenges when growing peas is keeping rabbits or other garden critters away from them. This is a common problem and one that frustrates gardeners every year. Some will even go to great lengths to cover their tender plants early in the season to keep animals from munching them down to the ground. Other common issues that might come up include diseases like blight, root rot, and powdery mildew. If you notice these, remove the plants immediately.

Pea Varieties

Sugar snap peas
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There are three main types of peas, which are all part of the legume family. As you look for seeds or plants, be sure to look closely at the names on the tag so you know what you’re growing.

  • English peas: These peas do not have edible pods, unlike the others. They grow and mature quickly, sometimes in as little as 50 days. Once the pods are plump, shell them to eat.
  • Snow peas: The pods of the peas are flat and edible. In fact, the small peas inside don’t really get that big. You'll often find these peas in various cuisines; they're favored for their sweetness.
  • Sugar snap peas: Think of sugar snap peas as a cross between English and snow peas. The insides plump up more, and the outer shell is also edible. These are the types you can buy from the grocery store for snacking.

How to Harvest, Store, and Preserve Peas

Check the label of your specific pea plant or seed packet for a harvest time, as it can vary quite a bit between types and specific cultivars. Once the peas reach maturity, gently pull individual pods off the plant. The plants can be tender, so don’t pull too hard.

If you have a large harvest of peas, two popular methods of saving them are freezing and canning. If you want to save seeds from your plants for next year, let the pods dry either on the plant or hang them in a cool, dry location. Once dried completely, just crack open the pods and save the seeds inside.