One of my favorite things to grow is peas. They are really simple to grow, give a big yield, can easily be grown vertically and can be eaten right off the vine. What could be better than this? Another great thing about peas is that they can be started long before the last chance of frost. Peas actually prefer a cooler growing season. Here in Connecticut, we can get two crops of peas a year. The first should be started in early spring for an early summer harvest and the second in last summer for an autumn harvest. The early spring peas can be planted in the ground around St. Patrick’s Day. If you have not planted your seeds yet, you may want to start with seedlings so that they will get enough time to mature before the heat of summer rolls in. If you start them late, peas can also be planted in part shade to shield them from some of the summer heat. It is easy to confuse peas and beans. This posting will focus on peas which like to be started early in the season. Beans, on the other hand, love the warmth of the summer and can not be started as early. A posting on growing beans will be coming soon.
You really do not need to do much to the soil for peas. They are really pretty simple. One of the things to remember about peas is that they should not be fertilized. Peas and beans can obtain their own nitrogen and are one of the few things that you can grow in your garden that will actually improve the quality of the soil they are grown in. Avoid fertilizers are it will raise the nitrogen level too high in the soil leading to vine growth, but few peas.
This year I am going to be planting sugar snaps peas and English (aka garden) peas. Both of these varieties will need to have something to climb up. I chose these two type because they are delicious, but also make great use of vertical growing space. They are also beautiful to look at. This link will help you determine which type of peas you want to grow.
Peas should be spaced about 4-5 inches apart and about 1/2 inch deep. Water your peas after you plant them and on a regular basis. Peas like moist soil, but do not like to be flooded. I have had the best luck with watering my peas in the morning. Also make sure to use the rain head attachment on your hose because it you water directly from the hose your delicate peas can easily be washed away.
Setting up something for the peas to grow up can be inexpensive and easy. Chicken wire or a trellis can be used, but can be costly. Last year, my daughter and I created a climbing system for our peas. We put three tall (6′) wood stakes in the ground. Then we used twine and wrapped it around the posts and then ran it back and forth between the posts. Not only was it cheap and fun to do, but it created this cool spider web like net for our peas and beans to grow up. We will be doing this again this year. It was a great way to get my daughter involved in the garden.
Peas grow fast so keep an eye on them once they get going. Encourage your peas to grow up the trellis you create for them once they are just a few inches tall. Peas will flower and the blooms can be many different colors making them beautiful to look at. I prefer to harvest my peas when they are on the small side as that is when I think they are the most delicious. If you like the variety that you grew, let a few peas at the end of the season grown to full maturity and save the seeds for planting next year. Peas and corn can also be planted together allowing the peas to grow up the corn stalks. You will need to start the corn before the beans to give the peas something to grow up. This would be an amazing use of space if you have a small garden and want to make the most of it.
Peas are wonderful for the seasoned gardened and the beginner gardener to grow. Follow the few simple rules of growing peas and you will surely have a delicious and plentiful crop of peas to enjoy. Happy gardening and please tell me about your experiences growing peas. I would love to hear about them.
Here is a great link about Growing Peas in 5 Easy Steps.