Growing Peas in Early Spring

I wasn’t in the habit of growing peas in my vegetable garden. I thought planting peas had little yield for the space they needed to grow.

So I was surprised when my friends harvested enough to eat and put away in the freezer. Peas grow quickly in about 65 to 68 days.

This leaves plenty of time to grow other crops when the peas are harvested.

Peas should be one of the first vegetables to plant in the garden.

Planting peas as soon as soil the can be worked in the spring for northern gardens. In southern and southwest gardens peas are grown in the fall.

Growing peas are hardy and love to grow in cool weather.

Varieties of Growing Peas

Shell Peas know as English peas they are shelled and the seeds inside are eaten. Pea’s grown to maturity are dried for split peas or used for mushy peas. Used fresh, frozen or canned.

Shell peas come in dwarf varieties and tall varieties. The dwarf varieties grow to 1 ½ to 2 feet tall and take less space and have a shorter season then the tall varieties. The tall varieties grow to 4 to 5 feet and climb with tendrils on trellises.

  • Little Marvel 62 days, grows 2 feet
  • Lincoln 67 days, grows 2 to 3 feet
  • Green Arrow 70 days, grows 2 to 2 ½ feet
  • Alderman 85 days, grows 6 to 8 on a trellis

Snow Peas flat immature pods are eaten raw and stir fried. The green shoots can be eaten in stir fries. Pea plants start producing quickly in about 70 days from planting.

  • Mammoth Melting 75 days to maturity, vines grow up to 5 feet and need to be trellised. Pods stay sweet even after the reach 3 inches.
  • Oregon Sugar Pod 68 day to maturity, vines grow to 2 ½ feet. Resistant to powdery mildew.
  • Dwarf Gray Sugar Pod 60 to 70 days to maturity, plants reach 18 to 24 inches. Dwarf Gray dates back to 1770. Good producer of tender sweet pods.

Edible Pod Peas also know as sugar snap peas.

  • Sugar Ann Dwarf 60 days to maturity, crisp flavorful pods that reach 3 inches. Peas grow on 24 to 30 inch vines. No support is needs but they will benefit from trellising.
  • Sugar Snap Tall 65 days to maturity, young tender pods that resist developing strings. Vines grow to 6 feet and need support.

Preparing Soil for Growing Peas

Any soil can grow peas. But your soil can determine when to plant and wither to plant early or late verities. Light sandy loam is good for early varieties and heaver moist soils grow late varieties best.

Peas grow in early spring with slightly moist soil. Pea seeds can rot in wet soggy soil. Light sandy soils dry out and warm up sooner so an early pea will do well in the spring. Heavier rich soils that hold more moisture do well with later verities of peas.

Peas do not need a lot of nitrogen in the soil as the growing peas draw nitrogen out of the air. Other plants use nitrogen in the soil. Peas like soil with plenty of potash and phosphorus. Rotate your peas every 3 to 4 year before planting in the same bed again. Plant peas where you planted celery or broccoli before.

It is best to prepare your soil in the fall before winter arrives in northern areas. This will give you an early start and helps with delays in spring if the weather is cooler or wetter.

Work your rows or beds 6 inches deep to accommodate roots. Work in composted manure in the fall or spring.

Planting peas in raised beds can be easier that field planting in the early spring. Raised beds have better drainage and eliminate soil compaction.

Planting Growing Peas

In the northern areas of the country, plant peas in the spring usually between March 15th and May 15th. For southern areas or southwestern areas of the country, plant peas in the fall when the weather is cooling down going into winter.

One pound of pea seed will plant 100 feet of row. Soak seeds for a couple of hours before planting if the soil is dry to speed up germination. If the soil is wet do not soak the seeds. Plant an early variety and a late verity rather than planting the same variety weeks apart.

Peas do well in raised beds or wide rows. Place 2 to 3 seeds in holes ½ to 1 inch deep every 1 to 3 inches in a double row 8 inches apart. Space rows 12 to 18 inches apart for a walking path.

Place a trellis or support between the 2 rows.

Trellising the dwarf varieties helps keep the peas off the ground and makes picking easier.

When the pea seedlings are 2 inches tall, thin to 3 inches apart.

Dwarf pea varieties can be planted in wide beds 3 to 4 rows deep if a trellis is not used.

The growing peas will support each other and can be picked from each side of the row.

Mulching around the peas will help keep the peas clean if they are not trellised.

Care and Harvest of Growing Peas

Spring rains will keep the pea plants watered in most seasons. If the weather dries out the pea plants will need to be irrigated about the time the blossoms fall off. It is important to give peas enough water while the pods are developing.

To control powdery mildew choose peas varieties that are resistant to powdery mildew.

Shell peas are ready to pick as the pods are well filled out. Pick before they get to big and are still young and tender.

Snow peas are ready to pick when pods are about 2 ½ to 3 inches. Pick snap peas when they are nice and juicy before they get to big. Edible pod peas have a longer window for picking but it is important to keep peas picked to keep your peas producing.

Peas should be eaten soon after picking to maintain the sweetness. Soon after picking the sugar in the peas begin to turn to starch. The best way to preserve your extra peas is to freeze them.

We don’t usually have extra; they are so good to eat right out of the garden!

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