When it comes to peas, always make sure to plant them as soon as the ground can be worked, even if snow falls afterwards. While peas are easy to grow, their growing period is limited to cool weather. Given they don’t last long after harvest, they should be eaten as soon as possible. When growing plants, they need to be planted early enough in spring so they mature while the weather is still cool, which means planting in February, March, or April in the majority of the United States and Canada. Even so, peas can be grown as a fall or winter crop in warmer regions.
Planting and Growing Information:
Peas planted in cold (40°F) will germinate slowly whereas those planted in soil temperature that is at least 60°F (but not more than 85°F) will catch up. The soil pH should be slightly acidic to neutral. Sow seeds 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost date when the soil is cool, or when the desired temperature is achieved. If the spring is long and wet, plant in raised garden beds. While snow won’t hurt emerging pea plants, several days with temperatures in the teens however might. If the first peas don’t make it, be prepared to plant again. An alternative method would be to begin your peas in a cold frame. In the late summer and early fall, a second round of peas can be planted, approximately 6 to 8 weeks before your first fall frost date. For tall and vining pea varieties, make sure to set up poles or a trellis at the time of planting as the young tendrils need to have something to climb on immediately after emerging from the soil.
Select a sunny location and well-draining soil. While peas can grow in part shade, they won’t be as sweet or productive as those grown in full sun. Soak seeds in water overnight before planting to speed up germination. Sow seeds 1 inch deep (slightly deeper if soil is dry) and about 2 inches apart. Make sure to not thin. Plant rows 7 inches apart. While peas don’t like their roots to be disturbed, transplanting is possible. Begin seeds in biodegradable pots and transplant the pot and all into the garden; the pot will disintegrate. It’s crucial to remember to not plant peas in the same place more than once every 4 years; you need to rotate crops. Not unlike other legumes, pea roots will fix nitrogen in the soil, which makes it available to other plants.
Bush peas can reach 18 to 30 inches tall whereas pole types can grow at least 4 to 6 feet tall. Both types benefit from support, especially bush peas above 2 feet and all pole peas. Be sure to thin tree branches or twiggy sticks (pea sticks)—trellises, chicken wire, strings, or netting work well—and place into the ground near each plant before it germinates. Unless plants are wilting, water peas sparsely with no more than 1 inch of water per week. While pea rot is not encouraged, make sure to not let the plants dry out. If this occurs, then no pods will be produced. Should seeds wash out of the soil, poke them back in. Carefully remove intrusive weeds by hand. If needed, hoe or cultivate, but do so very gently to avoid disturbing peas’ shallow, fragile roots. Pea leaves turn yellow, which is a result of the stress of hot weather. Make sure to provide partial shade (e.g., row covers) during the hottest time of day and water properly.
In the fall prior to planting, turn over the pea bed, mix in aged manure and/or compost, and mulch well. While peas need phosphorus and potassium, excess nitrogen will provoke foliage growth instead of flowers or pods. However, fertilizing pea plants isn’t required if the plants are mulched deeply with grass clippings, shredded leaves, or another biodegradable material.
Most pea varieties are ready to harvest 60 to 70 days after planting. Peas mature quickly, so make sure to check them daily once you see the flowers in bloom. In the morning, pick peas after the dew has dried when they’re the crispiest. When the delicate pods start to show immature seeds inside, pick snow peas. Make sure to gather snap peas when the pods become plump, yet are still glossy and filled with sweet-tasting peas. Pick shell peas before the pods become waxy. They’re at the peak of flavor immediately after harvest. Pea pods are considered over mature when they have hardened or turned a dull color; mature plants generally stop producing and die back in hot summer weather. In case you missed your peas’ peak period, you can still pick, dry, and shell them.