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How to Grow Peas

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A springtime favorite in our vegetable garden, peas are a hardy grower that does wonders for the garden soil. If you’re wondering how to grow peas in your vegetable garden this year, I’ve got you covered! All of the information from why to grow peas, how to grow peas, and even how to harvest and preserve them is all here. Let’s dive in!

Pea pods growing on vines

The Benefits of Growing Peas

Besides being tasty, all varieties of garden peas are generally good for the garden itself. Peas are a nitrogen-fixing plant, which means that as they grow and produce tasty peas for gardeners, they’re also at work below the ground providing nitrogen for your soil. This helps to rebuild soil and keeps gardeners from needing to use high-nitrogen fertilizers.

Another benefit of growing peas is most types of peas are easy to grow, as long as they are given the proper conditions. Beginner gardeners can have great success from the start with an easy crop like peas.

Peas are also great vegetables to use to save seed. Even if you’re just starting to save seed from one harvest to use the next year, pea seeds are a simple and easy vegetable to start with. Saving pea seeds is a great way to start building a seed bank, and it will save you money when it comes to ordering your seed for the new growing season!

Different Types of Peas

Not all peas are created equal, and depending on if you want to eat the whole pod, or are looking for just the green pea inside, you’ll want to pay attention to the different types of peas.

  • Shelling Peas– These are typically called English Peas and what you may remember from the family dinner table growing up. The pods themselves are not edible, but the tasty peas inside are.
  • Snow Peas– Flat, edible peas typically found in Asian stir fry are thin have a nice crunch. They’re also perfect for snacking on in the garden.
  • Sugar Snap Peas– Edible, sweet peas, hence the sugar in the name, is a garden delight that is productive and easy to grow. These are a favorite of the little gardeners around here.

Preparing Soil for Growing Peas

  • When should you start preparing soil for growing peas? When soil is 45 degrees at the lowest and not above 75 degrees. Many pea varieties do not enjoy the hot days of summer, so you’ll want to plant in spring or perhaps even try a fall crop.
  • Best soil type for growing peas? Peas like fertile, well-drained, sandy soil. Don’t have the ideal soil type? Peas can be very forgiving and will tolerate most soils except heavy clay. If you do happen to have heavy clay soil, opt to grow your peas in containers or raised garden beds. (Here’s a DIY Potting Soil recipe I use for filling my own raised beds.)
  • Soil preparation: Before spring planting, always have a soil test done. This way you know exactly what your soil needs, and you can amend it if necessary. Soil tests are usually free and available from your local Cooperative Extension office. As with most vegetables, making sure the soil is loose (not necessarily tilled) and mixed with fresh compost ensures your peas get a good start.
  • Ideal Ph: The Ph of soil is important for many plants, and a soil test (mentioned above) will give you information on the Ph of your soil. For peas, a Ph of 6.0 to 7.5 is best. Once your soil analysis comes back, amend soil with a low Ph (acidic soil) with agricultural lime if necessary.

How to Sow and Grow Peas Seeds

As with bean seeds, (see my Complete Guide to Growing Pole Beans) pea seeds should be soaked overnight in lukewarm water before planting. This helps break down the seed coat and will make for better (and faster) germination.

Peas should also be planted early in the season. Peas enjoy cooler temps, so once your soil is up to temperature (45-75 degrees) and the soil is amended if necessary, plant your peas. Aim for one month before the last frost date. If you’re not sure of your last frost date, check the calendar from The Farmer’s Almanac. For example, my average last frost date is April 1st, so I can go ahead and plant peas at the beginning of March.

Peas need to be sowed directly into the soil. Unlike other spring favorites, peas should be directly sown in the garden, not started indoors and transplanted. Plant seeds at a depth of one inch, and be sure to give each pea room to grow.

Young pea plants growing in rich garden soil

Peas also need trellising to grow well. This gives them a place to grow up (literally), which makes harvesting much easier. I love our metal garden obelisk for growing peas, but a simple DIY bean teepee or trellis also works beautifully. We use both of these in our garden, and I do like the aesthetic appeal of the garden obelisk, but the bean teepees we put together each spring are easily taken down and stored until the next year.

bean teepees

When to Harvest Peas

Harvesting peas does depend on the variety you’re growing. Be sure to check the seed package for full details of how many days to harvest. Recording when you planted peas will be helpful in keeping track of when they should be ready to harvest. Use the calendar on your phone to set an alert for the general harvest date or use a garden planner like my Complete Garden Planner to write down the day your seeds were planted and when they should be ready.

In general, peas that will be eaten whole should be harvested when they’re still tender. For those peas that will be shelled, allow more time for the pods to grow.

How to Preserve Peas

If you’ve had a great harvest, and you have more peas than you can eat (and give away to neighbors), consider preserving peas to eat later in the year. There are several methods you can use to preserve peas.

  • Freezing: An easy method of preserving peas is to freeze them for use later in the year. They will need to be blanched before freezing, and here’s a full post from The Spruce Eats on how to blanch and freeze peas.
  • Canning: If you have a bit more time on your hands, or no extra freezer space, here good instructions on how to can peas.

Peas can be one of the easiest crops to grow in the spring garden, and I hope you’ll give them a try this year! Our favorite is the sugar snap pea since it’s a great snacking pea that rarely makes it into the house.

I’d love to know if you have a favorite variety of garden pea! Comment below and let us know your favorite because I’m always looking to try something new in the garden. Have a great week and happy gardening!

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Tuesday 10th of August 2021

A good article. I appreciate the information. However, based on using the trellis you provided plans for (thank you) and given to plant the seeds 1” apart, how many plants can suitably grow on one trellis? Do the plants need to be thinned at all?


Wednesday 11th of August 2021

Great question! It would really depend on the size of your trellis. Since the peas grow up the trellis, there's not much crowding, but you can certainly thin out plants if you're seeing some plants aren't thriving. I hope this helps!