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How to Grow Peas

How to Grow Peas

Grow peas in gardenGarden peas and snap peas are grown for their shelled seeds or peas in their pods. 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 (13-21°C).

• Sow peas in the garden 6 weeks before the average last frost date in spring or as soon as the soil can be worked.

About Peas. 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, also called English peas, snap, also called sugar peas, are grown for the maturing seeds in the pods. These are harvested when pods are 4 to 6 inches (10-15cm) long and pods are bulging but before the pods begin to dry. Snap or sugar and snow peas are grown for their edible pods. These are harvested when pods are 1½ to 2½ inches (4-6mm) long and the peas inside are barely visible.

Three Types of Peas. There are three types of peas to grow—shelling, snow, and snap.

  • Shelling peas are the classic garden pea. There are early, mid-season, and late varieties; there are bush and tall types. Harvest shelling peas when the pods are full of round seeds. Petit pois are varieties of shelling peas that produce small pods, just 2 or 3 inches (5-7.5cm) long.
  • Snow peas are not shelled; they are served raw or lightly stir-fried. The pods will be 2 to 3 inches long (5-7.5cm) with tiny seeds that barely bulge in the pod. There are both bush and tall varieties. Snow peas sometimes have fibrous strings that must be removed.
  • Snap peas can be eaten when they are young like snow peas or the pea seeds can be allowed to enlarge; snap peas are then eaten pod and all when they are meatier. Snap peas can be eaten raw or lightly steamed. Snap peas grow to bush size, 2 to 3 feet (61-91cm) tall.

Peas Yield. Plant 30 plants per household member.

Pea seedlings growing
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.

Planting Peas

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.

Peas 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 (13-21°C). Sow peas in the garden 6 weeks before the average last frost date in spring or as soon as the soil can be worked. If you live in a mild-winter region, sow peas so that they come to harvest when the temperature is greater than 55°F (13°C).

For growing in winter, sow round, not wrinkled, pea seeds. Round seeds can withstand cold and wet soil better than wrinkled seed. (However, the wrinkled seeded peas are sweeter.) Round pea varieties are sometimes called “earlies”–for an early or quick harvest. Look for pea varieties that ready for harvest 55 to 60 days.

How to Plant and Space Peas. Sow pea seed 2 inches (5cm) deep, 2 to 3 inches (5-7cm) 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 (10cm) apart. Space rows 18 to 24 inches (46-61cm) apart. Sow pole or vine varieties in a circle around a pole or stake. Sow seed 8 to 10 inches (20-25cm) from the pole and thin to the 8 strongest plants. Soak seed for 4 to 6 hours before sowing.

More tips: Peas Seed Starting Tips.

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

Container Growing Peas. Peas will grow in a container at least 8 inches (20cm) deep. The number of plants required to produce a reasonable crop may not justify the effort.

Peas growing on supports
Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting. Side dress plants with aged compost at midseason.

Caring for Peas

Water and Feeding Peas. 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.

More growing tips at: Pea Growing Tips.

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

Pea Plant 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.

Pea Plant 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.

Disease and pest problems and solutions: Pea Growing Problems: Troubleshooting

Peas ready for harvest
Pick shelling peas (garden, English, and snap peas) when the pods are bulging and green before peas start to harden.

Harvesting and Storing Peas

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 (4-6mm) 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.

More harvest tips: How to Harvest and Store Peas.

Storing and Preserving Peas. 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.

Snow pea
Snow pea

Pea Varieties to Grow

• 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 Marve’l (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).

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

Botanical name. Pisum sativum

Origin. Europe, Near East

More Pea Picking Tips.


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    • Tall growing pea varieties include ‘Alderman’, ‘Lincoln’, and ‘Wando’. Tall growing peas are sometimes referred to as ‘telephone’ varieties. Look for the words tall or telephone on seed packets. Tall growing peas can be trained to a trellis or tripod. You can start the peas upward by attached with to the trellis or pole with elastic horticultural tape; soon the tendrils will take over as the plant grows upwards.

    • Peas that develop plenty of green growth but do not set pods may need a boost of phosphorus which is good for root and pod development. There may be too much nitrogen in the soil. Feed plants with compost tea–you can side dress the tea around the base of the plant or spray-mist it on to the foliage. A fertilizer low in nitrogen such as 5-10-10 is the best choice next growing season.

  1. Hello;
    I am growing snap peas and snow peas together in a raised planter box vertically, and was wondering why I’m not getting very many peas as there seems to be a lot of flowers and buds. I then noticed that the very small pods are being snapped off/eaten by something when they are still quite small so they can’t develop into a mature snow/snap peas! This is very frustrating! I can’t see any insects present so am not sure what could be doing this. perhaps I should put a row cover over the vines? any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • Placing a row cover or netting over your peas may exclude the critter that is feasting on the young pods. Peas are self-pollinating so cover the plants with a light row cover is a good solution. If nights are chilly, the young flowers may be suffering, but a row cover will serve the double purpose of keeping them warm.

    • The lower leaves on the plant are the oldest leaves so they will be the first to yellow and die naturally. They also may be shaded by all of the foliage above which could cause yellowing. If the mid and upper leaves on the plant are green and healthy then there is nothing more for you to do. Yellowing leaves can also be caused by too much or too little water and temperatures too hot or too cold. Keep the soil just moist and feed the plants compost tea or a dilute solution of fish emulsion.

  2. Hi. I am growing my sugar snap peas in a container that is 40 quarts and has a 19 inch diameter. There is a built in trellis in the center of the pot. I am a beginner and confused about how many seedlings I should have in this size pot, and how far apart they should be spaced. I’ve started my peas indoors in cow pots. I don’t know how many to transport to this pot I’ve described above. Thank you for the information this website is a lifesaver!

    • Four plants evenly space around the pot will be more than enough; in 3 or so weeks you may want to eliminate two of the plants. Two plants will use all of the trellis, but you can hedge your bet by allowing four to get started.

    • Give the plants a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than nitrogen, such as 5-10-10; give a liquid fertilizer for quicker uptake since your plants are already established.

  3. Hello! I have started growing snow peas in a large planter box but i think they may be too close together. I’ve planted ten seeds and in two rows. The seeds were sown in rows of 5 and were spaced by about 3 cm and the two rows are about 5 cm apart. The seedlings are around 4 cm high right now. Should I eliminate some seedlings?

  4. I was able to grow fat snap pea vines last winter in Central Texas. This year they are wimpy and the vines look tiny and shredded. They fall over and are not now growing at all. In all the comments I don’t see anything about this problem. Nothing really seems to be growing in the garden except the large mustard. Everything else seems stunted and still. Could it be not enough sun for part of it? But last year the peas were beautiful. Same garden.
    Thanks for any insight!

    • Sunlight and temperature play a large role in crop success. Check your garden records and compare temperature and weather conditions for the same period last year. Amend the soil between crops with aged compost or commercial organic planting mix. Feed peas with a dilute solution of fish emulsion or kelp meal every 10 days.

    • Temperature, sunlight, and general growing conditions affect the time it takes a pea plant to blossom and fruit. A variety whose days to maturity are 70 days (look at the label on the seed packet to find the days to maturity), should be blooming in about 50 to 55 days, and mature peas should be ready to harvest at 70 days.

  5. I would like to plant snap peas with slicing cucumbers, one after the other. I plan to place an A-frame trellis in the garden. Should I plant the peas on the outside of the A-frame and cucumbers on the interior, vice versa, or both on the outside? Thanks!

    • The cucumbers will be heavier and so may hang down on the inside of the A-frame; the peas will likely lay against leaves. If the A-frame is large enough to walk under or harvest from the inside set the cucumbers on the inside. It is likely the peas will finish production before the cucumbers, so you can plant them in succession on the outside. Be sure to add aged compost or organic planting mix to the soil to renew the soil between plantings.

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