A Complete Guide to Growing Peas From Seed
Updated: Jan 24
Peas are an easy and rewarding vegetable to grow in your backyard in-ground or raised bed vegetable garden. They are a hardy, cold tolerant plant, making them a great addition for the zone 3 garden. They grow to maturity quickly and are often one of the first crops to be harvested from backyard gardens.
Peas are always the first veggie on the list of what my kids want to plant in their garden plots! Because pea seeds are one of the larger vegetable seeds, they are easy to plant and space, making them the perfect vegetable to have your kids plant themselves.
Garden Pea Varieties
Pea varieties include snow peas, snap peas and English shelling peas. Snap peas are a cross between English peas and snow peas and have a crisp, edible shell. Snow peas have an edible shell as well but tend to take longer to mature than snap peas and are not as heat tolerant.
Do Peas Need a Trellis?
Peas come in both tall vining and dwarf (or bush) varieties. Tall pea varieties are meant to grow vertically on a trellis, growing upwards as high as 4 to 6 feet. Securing such a tall trellis can be inconvenient to some, especially in our strong Alberta winds. If you wish to use a shorter trellis or no trellis at all, look for dwarf pea varieties which grow between 18 inches to two feet in height.
Growing Peas in a Pot
If growing peas in a pot or container select a dwarf or bush pea variety. These look beautiful trailing down over the edge of the pot or you can use a small trellis, like a tomato cage, to secure upright. Try to choose a pot nearly as deep as your pea will grow tall to support plant growth.
How to Trellis Peas (Pea Trellis Ideas)
Growing vertically can be a great way to grow more in the vegetable garden space you have available as well as making peas easier to pick once ripe. An easy to make pea trellis can be made from metal "T" posts and attaching chicken, stucco or hog wire with zip ties. If you are using raised beds, 2 x 4s can be attached to the sides of the beds as posts and wire stapled onto them for a permanent pea fence. Other metal or wooden fan trellises can be used to grow peas vertically and work especially well if you only intend to grow a small number of peas.
When to Plant Peas
If you have read other posts of mine, you will know that at one time I used to plant all of my garden the third week in May, right around my last frost date. Since then, I have learned through the advice of seasoned gardeners, along with experimenting myself, that cold hardy crops can be planted up to a month prior to last expected frost with great success. (Find my full planting schedule here.) Peas tolerate snow and freezing temperatures up to -7°C (20°F) and snow well up until the time of blooming. Pea blossoms are tender and frost during blooming will harm the plant. If you find some of your peas do not germinate with early planting you can fill in what is missing and still have plenty of time to grow your peas to maturity.
If you have a large area to plant peas in, consider succession planting your peas. Plant peas every 3 weeks during spring months for a continuous supply of fresh garden peas to snack on all summer long.
How to Plant Peas
Plant peas in a location that gets full sun or at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. If planted in a part sun location, peas may not be as abundant or sweet and will take longer to mature. Plant in loose soil with compost worked into it.
Pea seeds can be soaked anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours prior to planting to speed up germination. This is not necessary but if you want to grow your peas to maturity quickly, consider soaking your pea seeds until you see them begin to sprout. Change water as needed to keep it fresh.
Let's take a look at how far apart to plant peas and how deep to plant your pea seeds. Plant peas 1 inch apart and 3/4 to 1 inch deep. I like to plant mine on the deeper side to discourage mice and birds from finding and eating peas. Keep soil damp until seeds have germinated. Birds tend to love snacking on sprouted peas. Keep an eye out on birds and if necessary, consider covering your young peas with netting.
Although it is possible to transplant peas, they do not always transplant well. I recommend planting pea seeds outdoors in their permanent location rather than starting them indoors.
Tips for Caring For Pea Plants
Pea plants require little care. As long as they are growing in quality garden soil, peas do not require any fertilizing. Let soil dry out on the top two inches before watering your pea plants. Peas do not need to be thinned. Weed as needed.
Once you notice blossoms on your pea plants, check them daily for ripe peas. They seem to appear all at once in one day! Snap peas and snow peas can be picked as soon as they are about 2 inches long. Wait until shelling peas are plump before picking. Harvesting peas regularly will encourage a higher yield.
Peas become overripe quickly with snap and snow peas becoming tough and chewy and shelling peas becoming bitter. Harvest thoroughly and often to prevent this.
Harvest peas early in the morning while the day is still cool to get the crispest, sweetest peas. Store for up to 5 days in the fridge in a plastic bag. Placing a paper towel in the bag absorbs extra moisture and helps to keep peas crisp.
Use two hands when harvesting peas to prevent the vine from breaking. Hold onto the vine with one hand and gently tug the pea off with the other.
Companion Plants for Peas
Peas grow well with most other plants in your veggie garden including beans, brassicas, carrots, cilantro, corn, cucumbers, parsley, peppers, radishes, sage, spinach, tomatoes, strawberries and thyme.
Avoid planting peas next to chives, onions or garlic.
Find my full printable companion planting guide here.
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