How to grow and care for peas
Varieties of peas
Pisum sativum ‘Waverex’: One of the sweetest varieties of petit pois pea, Waverex will provide you with a good crop of small and tender peas throughout the summer.
Pisum sativum ‘Sugar Snap’ Peas: A popular variety as their sweet and tender pods can be eaten as a whole.
Pisum sativum ‘Half Pint’ Peas: This is the smallest variety of pea available, which is perfect for window boxes and pots. Due to its ultimate height of 1.5ft (0.5m), no support is required for this variety.
Where to grow peas
If you live in the south, peas can be sown outdoors under cloches from March onwards. If you live in the north, you might want to wait until April. Peas can be sown from June for harvesting, up until October. For most pea varieties, it is around 10 weeks from sowing until harvest time.
Choose an open, sunny bed to grow your peas. Avoid areas where they will shade sun-loving plants. Alternatively, if you are short of space, smaller varieties can be grown in pots or grow bags.
Preparing your plot and required equipment
Create a nutrient-rich bed: As with most vegetable plants, the more nutrient-rich and moist the soil is, the more successful your harvest will be. If you do not have time to create a composting trench, then dig in some compost and well-rotted manure around a month before you want to sow your seeds.
Warm the ground: If you are planting out early in the season, make sure you warm your ground with cloches or fleece. Ideally, the soil should be at least 50°F (10°C).
Provide support: Push branches from pruned trees and shrubs into the ground to provide support for young pea seedlings. As your plants get older, the amount of support they require will depend on their variety. Smaller varieties will grow with little support, however taller varieties will require trellis or bamboo structures so that the peas have something to wrap around their tendrils. You may need to use garden twine to train them and prevent them from flopping over. The more space you provide for your peas, the easier it will be to hunt the pods out once they are ready to harvest.
Sowing your seeds outdoors: Create shallow drills along your vegetable bed, around 6 inches apart. Sow your pea seeds within the drills around 3 inches apart to reduce competition for water and nutrients. Unless it is particularly dry, avoid watering your peas in as this can cause them to rot. Use cloches to help early peas to germinate and stop the birds from eating your seeds.
Care and growing tips
- Water regularly during dry spells.
- Sow your peas every 2 weeks to stagger the harvest. Shelling peas can be quite time-consuming. You do not want them to be ready all at once, even if you plan to freeze them.
- If starting your peas off indoors, sow them in toilet roll tubes. This will help them to establish long, secure roots.
- Avoid planting your peas near onions or garlic as this can stunt their growth.
- Peas produce their own nitrogen so avoid over feeding them with nitrogen fertilizers. If your plants have too much nitrogen, their energy will focus on producing lush foliage rather than fruit.
- As with all vegetables, make sure that you rotate your peas to a different plot in your vegetable garden each year to prevent disease and pest problems.
When to harvest peas
Your peas will be ready to harvest when they reach the correct length for their variety. Do not leave ripe pods on the plant for too long or your peas will lose their sweetness and become starchy. You should harvest regularly until your plant stops producing new pods. To keep peas fresh, harvest them with their calyx (the star-shaped cluster of leaves at the point where the pod joins the stem) intact.
Your pea shoots and leaves can also be a delicious addition to salads and sandwiches. To make sure your pea plant continues to produce new branches, pinch the shoot off just above the second leaf down. If you look closely at where the base of the shoot meets the leaf, you should see a tiny lump where the new branch will form.
How to store peas
Fridge: Fresh peas are best eaten within a couple of hours of picking, before the sugars in the peas have started to change into starches. If you are not planning to eat your freshly picked peas within two days at the most, freeze them.
Freezer: Peas freeze well but must be shelled and frozen on the day of harvesting to keep their flavour. Before freezing your peas, blanch them for 1-2 minutes and then place them into a pan of iced water. Once your peas have cooled down, remove them from the water and dry them with a tea towel. Lay the peas out onto a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper before putting them into the freezer, so that they don‘t freeze together. Once your peas are frozen, you can transfer them into a freezer bag for storage.
When to sow peas
Pisum sativum ‘Half Pint’ Pea
Available online and in centre.