How to Grow Peas

All About Peas

There are three main varieties of peas with which most gardeners are familiar. Sweet peas are for shelling and have inedible pods. Snow peas have edible pods and peas and are usually eaten whole. And Snap peas have full-sized edible peas as well as edible pods. All are awesome and have countless uses in the kitchen, and all are incredibly easy to grow so they're definitely a gardener go-to.

Most varieties of peas are perfect for growing in containers, offering lots of options for patio gardens or smaller garden plots. Some of the larger varieties, like Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas whose vines can grow as high as 7 feet, are better planted in larger spaces with the sturdy support of a trellis or fence.

How to Plant & Grow Peas

  1. Soil: Peas prefer cool weather and grow best in well-drained soil that is rich in phosphorus and potassium. 
  2. Sowing Seeds: Moisten pea seeds before planting and direct sow them in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Continue planting every 2-3 weeks to enjoy successive crops all summer and even into fall.
    - For a fall crop, plant seeds about 8 weeks before the first frost.
    - For pole varieties (the largest of all peas), plant seeds 1 inch deep and 4 inches apart against a trellis or other support structure.
    - For dwarf varieties (the slightly shorter ones that are also container friendly), plant double rows spaced 8 inches apart leaving 3-4 feet on each side of the double row. Truly dwarf varieties (up to 24 inches) do not require trellising, but semi-dwarf varieties (over 24 inches) definitely will. 
  3. Growing: Using fertilizer is okay, but be sure not to overdo as peas can be sensitive to too much nitrogen. Also be sure not to overwater. While it's important to keep your pea plants moist-- as dry plants won't produce pods -- peas prefer to be watered sparsely. 
  4. Harvesting: In general, peas are ready to be picked when you can see that the peas have enlarged inside the pods and the pods are still a bright green. Hold the vines while harvesting to avoid tearing them. Pop the pods open at the seam and scoop the peas out with your thumb. Most pea varieties are perfect fresh, frozen, canned, or cooked.

Did You Know? Fun Facts About Peas

From anti-aging benefits like preventing wrinkles, Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, and arthritis to body management bonuses like weight and blood sugar regulation, peas are definitely powerhouses when it comes to health and nutrition. They contain almost half the recommended daily value of vitamin K and are also loaded with iron, copper, zinc, manganese, and calcium. They also provide nearly 25% of what's needed daily for folate, vitamin A, and thiamin.

Peas, along with beans and grains, are among the earliest of all cultivated vegetables. Evidence of peas has been found in the lake mud beneath houses created by Bronze Age Swiss lake dwellers. Peas have also been found at a prehistoric cave site in Hungary, which is believed to be even older than the Swiss site.

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