Garden 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.
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.
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
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.
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.