Growing Peas – they’re an important crop and one of the easiest of all vegetables to propagate and grow.
There is a good reason why parents encourage kids to eat more green peas. They have many essential vitamins and minerals that the growing bodies need. Peas (Pisum sativum) common names include garden pea, round Garden Pea, sugar pea, English pea, dwarf pea, marrowfat pea, petit pois, and climbing pea. Giving rather rapid satisfaction peas are also perfect for gardening with the kids.
Peas are fantastic eaten raw, steamed or boiled. To boil drop them into lightly salted boiling water for approx 2-3 minutes, or to steam you should cook for approx 1-2 minutes. Serve with chopped mint and a little melted butter. If by any chance you should have a surplus of peas, they can be frozen or bottle preserved for using later.
A fair amount of space in the garden should be devoted to this crop. Peas grow best in a sunny spot but will tolerate partial shade but will suffer reduced cropping. Avoid soil that waterlogs or dries out rapidly. Shelter is also beneficial as I’ve had a pea crops flattened in summer storms.
Soil must prepared well to allow a good yeild, peas do not like to sit in wet soil, poorly drained soil will lead to root rot and plant failure so pick a spot with good drainage. If you have heavy soil, add compost to improve drainage. Working leaves, grass, mushroom compost, clippings or straw into the soil will improve soil texture, drainage and nutrient content. Side dressing with compost midseason will help pea plants continue to produce blooms and pods late into the season.
Pea plants can grow in a range of soil pH levels, between 5.8, slightly acidic, and 7, neutral. If the soil is too alkaline, add sulfur, if it is too acidic, add lime. Test the soil before planting to see if you need to amend. Purchase a soil testing kit to test soil pH.
Because peas are in the legume family, they are nitrogen fixers – taking nitrogen from the air into useable nitrogen in the soil. So soil that is slightly nitrogen-deficient is fine. Growing peas in nitrogen-rich soil will result in overly leafy plants but few pea pods. To avoid this, plant peas with a heavy feeding companion such as corn or asparagus. Peas will continue to produce nitrogen, which will be quickly absorbed by the companion plant, improving the overall health of both plants.
How to grow LOTS of peas
As a rule the dwarf varieties are the easiest, for they do not require sticks and many more rows of dwarfs can be grown on an equal area than of the tall kind, for the rows of the latter have to be spaced far apart. However my favoutite pea varieties are the types you can eat the pods – who has time for shelling these days?!
Peas with Edible Pods – Eat mangetouts peas pod and all
- Snap peas. These are ready to pick as soon as the peas swell the pods. ‘Sugar Snap’ are extra-sweet vining types the stringless ‘Sugar Sprint’ is a bush types
- Snow peas. Bred to be harvested young, their flat pods are perfect for stir-fries. If you wait too long to harvest most snow peas, they develop a string that you have to remove before eating.
On an average peas take 70 days to come to maturity, and you must sow fortnightly to ensure a succession. Pea plants comprise weak stems with green leaves divided into 2-7 leaflets. Also up along these stems the plants produce wrapping tendrils that they use for climbing. While it does depend on the variety but pea plants usually stand 90 to 120cm (3-4ft) high so provide support in the form of pea sticks or you’ll need to purchase some bamboo canes to support climbing varieties. Alternatively use tree prunings with lots of small twigs as a cheap and handy source of pea supports.
With the draw hoe make a weed-free and lightly raked growing area you must create a flat-bottomed drill 2 inches (5cm) deep. Lightly press the seeds into the base of this drill at 7-8cm (3 in) spacings.
After sowing close the drill with soil, then water well. The distance between the drills should be at least 1 metre alternatively the distance should correspond with the height of the peas. An even wider spacing is preferable as it allows room to get between the rows to harvest your crop. Your precious pea seed is wasted by sowing too thickly, for when this is done the seedlings must be thinned out. The expected seed germination time approx is 7-10 days.
Birds often pick at the young leaves and spoil the plants. Strands of black cotton stretched over the rows afford an effective protection. The strands can be tied to sticks, 2 in. to 3 in. high, or to thumbtacks nailed on a piece of wood.
Time from planting to harvest is from 12 to 16 weeks. Pea pods are produced once the plants white flowers are done. Pods contain four to ten green peas, either smooth or wrinkled again depending on the variety you’ve sown.
Pods are ready for picking once they are almost full (peas almost touching), but before the peas within start to harden. It’s best to gather peas from the bottom of the stem first working upwards, one hand holding the stem and the other pulling off the pod, do not allow them to get too old. Harvest every couple of days, as regular picking will force your plants to keep up production for many weeks.
Growing Peas Tips
- Soak pea seeds the night before planting and get germination off to an early start
- Early peas should be sown a little thicker than the later varieties
- Grow a few extras in pots as some peas may not germinate and the birds may get others
- Avoid using pestacides – every part of a pea plant is edible! Use all parts in salads or as vegetables
- Always gather frequently to get your produce in the peak of condition
- To freeze lightly steam the beans, remove and place under cold water, then freeze in plastic bags or containers
- Leave nitrogen-rich pea roots behind in the soil to benefit your next vegetable crop