Did you know that pea plants prefer cool weather? With this in mind, it’s best to plant your peas in the early spring and again in time for a second harvest before the fall frost sets in. And if you’re looking for growing tips, we’ve got all the info you need to grow an amazing cool weather crop!
How to Grow Pea Plants
If you’ve never grown peas, get ready to fall in love with how easy it is to grow these wonderful pods. Simply provide your pea plants with rich, well-draining soil, a trellis to climb on (depending upon the growth habit of the varieties you choose), adequate moisture, and at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
Peas prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5. And they must have good drainage to prevent root rot. Poor drainage is one of the most common mistakes new gardeners make when growing peas.
How to Harvest Peas
Standard, or bush-type garden pea plants, such as our Lincoln Pea plant, produce four to five-inch pods containing six to 10 peas each. Harvest them when the pods are plump, well-rounded and you can feel the mature peas inside with a light squeeze. In many instances, you’ll be able to see the bump that each individual pea makes. When ripe, the pod should easily release from the vine, with just a light pull, right where the crown meets the stem.
Most varieties of traditional English peas will mature within 60 to 70 days. We love the Lincoln pea plant in particular because it’s resistant to heat and humidity and also has superior resistance to wilt. Even brand-new gardeners will have bragging rights when growing this one!
How to Prepare Bush or English Peas
Remove bush- or vine-type garden or English peas from their protective pods within just a few days of harvesting. This will help them retain their moisture and sweet flavor. They are a crunchy and satisfying raw snack, especially when chilled. Add them to summer salads of all kinds! You can also boil, steam or microwave them as you please. Some gardeners love the flavor of the pea tops, or tips, the vine ends, leaves and tendrils and will add them raw to salads or use them in their favorite stir-fry recipes. If not using your peas immediately, they should be canned, frozen or otherwise processed.
How to Prepare Snap Peas
Snap peas are similar to a Chinese pea pod and are meant to be eaten in their entirety, the peas inside being smaller and the pods more tender. Stringless varieties, such as the Sugar Sprint, are the most succulent. Snap peas are delicious raw when eaten right out of the garden, or chilled for a handy finger snack or as an addition to cold salads. You can cook them immediately or store them for up to a week in the refrigerator. They are wonderful in stir fry dishes. But their mild, sweet flavor also lends itself well to pickling, canning or freezing. They mature fully at around 60 days, though you can also harvest these when babies. Remove any crown or stem still attached to the pod before eating. Sugar Sprint will be happy on the vine for longer than many pea varieties. It’s also resistant to powdery mildew and pea enation mosaic virus (pemv).
Which Pea Plant Should I Grow?
Peas can be planted from seed directly into the garden, or you can save the work and transplant well-established pea seedlings. Small garden spaces or container gardens may determine whether you will grow a bush-type or vining pea plant. Also take into consideration the number of days to maturity, your climate, disease resistance and how you intend to prepare or preserve your pea harvest. Since they are a cool-weather vegetable, peas prefer to be one of the first vegetables in the ground in the spring. Which also makes them one of the first to be harvested in early summer.
Growing Pea Plants
Most varieties of pea seeds require a soil temperature of at least 45°F to germinate. Sow about two inches apart and one inch deep. The mature width of the pea variety you grow will determine how far apart to thin the seedlings. Choose the strongest and discard the weakest (you can add these to your compost bin, feed your chickens, or even offer them to pet rabbits). Thin your pea plants once the second set of leaves is well grown. The tallest varieties need support for their vining habit, which should be up by the time you thin your seedlings. For their nutrient needs, apply fish emulsion when the plants reach six inches tall and then again after the first harvest.
We recommend you alternate the areas in which you grow your pea plants each season. This prevents the decline of any one nutrient necessary for healthy growth. We also suggest you remove the dying pea plant stems and vines, as well as all other garden refuse, at the end of the growing season. This prevents overwintering bugs from taking up residence and will help to ensure a disease-free garden for next year.
By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs
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