How to Grow Peas: Garden, English, Snap Peas and Sugar and Snow Peas

Peas on vineGarden, English, and snap peas are grown for the shelled seeds or peas in their pods. Sugar or snow peas are grown for their flat, green pods.

Peas are a cool-season crop that must mature before the weather gets warm. The ideal growing temperature for peas is 55°F to 70°F. Sow peas in the garden 6 weeks before the average last frost date in spring or as soon as the soil can be worked.

Description. Peas are weak-stemmed vining annuals with leaf-like stipules, leaves with one to three pairs of leaflets, and tendrils used for climbing. Peas grow 6 to 10 peas or seeds in a pod. Seeds are either smooth or wrinkled depending on the variety. Garden, English, and snap peas are grown for the maturing seeds in the pods. These are harvested when pods are 4 to 6 inches long and pods are bulging but before the pods begin to dry. Sugar and snow peas are grown for their edible pods. These are harvested when pods are 1½ to 2½ inches long and the peas inside are barely visible.

Yield. Plant 30 plants per household member.

Site. Grow peas in rich, loamy soil that is well-drained. Peas will produce earlier if planted in sandy soil. Later crops can be planted in heavier, clay soil. Plant peas in full sun or partial shade. Peas prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Grow peas supported by poles, a trellis, or fence.

Planting time. Peas are a cool-season crop that must mature before the weather gets warm. The ideal growing temperature for peas is 55°F to 70°F. Sow peas in the garden 6 weeks before the average last frost date in spring or as soon as the soil can be worked.

How to plant and spacing. Sow pea seed 2 inches deep, 2 to 3 inches apart in double rows supported by a trellis, netting, or wire or string supports between two poles for bush varieties. Sow two seeds to each hole. Thin plants to 4 inches apart. Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Sow pole or vine varieties in a circle around a pole or stake. Sow seed 8 to 10 inches from the pole and thin to the 8 strongest plants. Soak seed for 4 to 6 hours before sowing.

Water and feeding. Keep the soil evenly moist. Do not allow the soil to dry out. Avoid getting plants wet when they are flowering or the crop may be reduced. Add aged manure and aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting. Side dress plants with aged compost at midseason.

Companion plants. Beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, radishes, turnips. Do not plant next to garlic, onions, or potatoes.

Care. Provide a trellis or pole to support the pea vines. Peas can be grown without a support; however they will grow and produce much better with support. Cultivate gently to avoid harming the fragile roots.

Container growing. Peas will grow in a container at least 8 inches deep. The number of plants required to produce a reasonable crop may not justify the effort.

Pests. Peas can be attacked by aphids, rabbits, and birds. Control aphids by pinching out infested foliage or by hosing them away. Fence out rabbits. Use bird netting to keep birds away.

Diseases. Peas are susceptible to rot, wilt, blight, mosaic, and mildew. Plant disease resistant varieties and plant peas in well-drained soil to avoid root-rot disease. Avoid handling vines when they are wet. Remove and destroy diseased plants.

Snow pea

Snow pea

Harvest. Peas will be ready for harvest 55 to 80 days from sowing. Pick shelling peas (garden, English, and snap peas) when the pods are bulging and green, before peas start to harden. Young peas will be tastier than older ones. Withered and yellowed pods can be used for dried peas. Pick sugar and snow peas when pods are 1½ to 2½ inches long and peas are just barely visible within the pods. The sugar in peas will begin converting to starch as soon as peas are picked. To slow the process, chill the peas in their pods as they are picked and shell them immediately before cooking.

Varieties.

Garden, English, and snap peas: Alaska (52-58 days); Alderman (75 days); Bounty (61 days); Cascadia (58 days); Freezonian (60 days); Frosty (64 days); Green Arrow (62-100 days); Lincoln (66 days); Little Marvel (62 days); Maestro (57-61 days); Novella (57 days); Olympia (60-62 days); Oregon Pioneer (61 days); Oregon Trail (69 days); Patriot (65 days); Petit Provencal (58 days); Spring Knight (60 days); Tall Telephone (75 days); Thomas Laxton (65 days); Utrillo (71 days); Wando (75 days).

Sugar and snow peas: Carouby De Maussane (55-65 days); Chinese Snow (65 days); Dwarf Gray Sugar (65 days); Little Sweetie (60 days); Mammoth Melting Sugar (69 days); Mega (60 days); Norli (50-58 days); Oregon Giant (60 days); Oregon Sugar Pod (65 days); Snowbird (58 days); Sugar Ann (58 days); Sugar Bon (57 days); Sugar Mel (60-60 days); Sugar Snap (62-70 days); Sweet Snap (66 days).

Storing and preserving. Peas will keep in the refrigerator unshelled for up to one week. Peas can be frozen, canned, or dried. Dried peas will keep in a cool, dry place for up to 12 months. Edible-pod peas will keep in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days in a plastic bag. Edible pod peas can be frozen and will lose little flavor.

Common name. Pea, garden pea, sugar pea, English pea

Botanical name. Pisum sativum

Origin. Europe, Near East

Grow 80 vegetables: THE KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE