Peas thrive in cool weather, and one of the first vegetables you can sow outdoors in early spring. If you haven’t grown peas in your garden before you are in for a treat. My garden wouldn’t be complete without sugar snap peas growing on the trellis in my raised bed.
If the weather co-operates, I try to get mine sown in my Zone 7A garden between March 1st and mid March. The cooler months brings out their sweet, crispy flavor. Peas take about 60 days to mature, so if I wait too long to sow them they mature when the weather is becoming too hot and they won’t tolerate our June heat. They prefer full sun with 6-8 hours of sun daily.
There are several varieties of peas, but my favorite is sugar snap peas. They can be eaten straight from the vine as a snack, in salads, or steamed. They have plump peas in a crispy pod when mature and the whole pod is eaten. In fact, mine often won’t make it into my house if I am working in the garden. Snow peas have a flat pod and pea. They are often used in stir fry. Shell peas, or English peas need to be shelled, leaving only the pea to be cooked an eaten. I’m not a fan of English peas, so I I have never grown them.
There are bush type peas, but my sugar snap and snow peas require a trellis. Using a trellis to grow vertically frees up valuable garden space. My trellis is a simple piece of left over fencing that is connected to two metal poles. It runs the length of my 6 foot raised bed, set far enough out from the edge of my bed that I am able to plant a row of peas, sown 2 to 3″ apart on each side of the trellis. Since peas are not heavy you can purchase a garden netting that can be removed once your peas have been harvested. Since I use the trellis for cucumbers occasionally, I wanted something a little sturdier that could hold the heavier cucumbers. If you place a trellis in your garden, place it on the north end of your bed so that anything in front of it won’t be shaded by the growing peas.
Peas are a low maintenance vegetable. If you start with a healthy soil that has been amended with compost, you should not need any additional fertilizer. Peas produce their own nitrogen like all other legumes. Their seeds have hard shells and soaking overnight before planting will speed up germination. They do not require frequent watering, but water them deep at the base of the plant. Avoid overhead watering which will leave the pods and leaves wet. This makes them more susceptible to disease. Mulch well around the plants once they gain some height to retain moisture and keep the soil cool.
I sow my pea seeds on one side of the trellis, then 10-14 days later I sow the other side. This provides a steady supply over several weeks. I’m also able to plant a fall crop of peas again in September ,about 6 weeks before my first frost in mid October.
Check your seed package for days to maturity for the variety you sow. Mark that date on your garden calendar to help you decide if your peas are ready. Sugar snap peas should be harvested when both the pods and peas are plump. The pods should snap when bent. The pods and peas of snow peas are flat, and should be harvested before the inside peas have filled out. English peas are ready when the pods have reached their full length and the peas have plumped up. Once harvested they can stay in your refrigerator for up to a week, but are best when used a day or two after harvest.
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