Whether you call them garden peas, snap peas, snow peas or shelling peas, this small vegetable is delicious. Peas are a member of the legume family and are most flavorful in early spring either as shell peas or edible pods. Gardeners are also discovering the delicious crunchiness of eating pea vine tendrils. While peas are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, the sugar snap pea is a fairly new introduction. Before 1979, there were only two kinds of fresh peas: the English pea and the snow pea.
How to Grow Peas
The key to growing the tastiest tender peas is to get an early start. Plan on planting while spring temperatures are still cool because they’ll stop growing as soon as temperatures heat up. Some gardeners always plant their peas in March on St. Patrick’s Day, even if they have to clear some snow away. In Colorado, April Fool’s Day may be a better planting choice.
- It’s best to wait until the soil has warmed to 50-60 degrees and is dry enough to work. Select a full-sun spot in the garden and amend the soil with compost.
- Dig deeply and loosen the soil to make it easier for the pea plants to develop the long roots they need.
- Plant several varieties of peas with different maturity dates, to increase the yield and extend the harvest.
- If you can’t plant in March, the next best planting date is two to four weeks before the date of the average last spring frost. Because peas are a hardy vegetable, they can survive a bit of frost and grow in temperatures as cool as 40 degrees.
- Before planting, soak pea seeds in water overnight to help speed germination. Another way to help peas get a good start and increase overall yield is to use a bacteria inoculant powder. The powder gets mixed in with the peas or into the soil right before planting.
- Plant seeds about several inches apart, with 2 feet between rows. If you need to thin the seedlings to keep them 3-4 inches apart, be sure to toss the thinnings into a spring salad.
- Peas can be intercropped with other cool-season crops, like spinach and radishes.
- As soon as peas sprout and start to grow, add a trellis or teepee for the vines to climb. Water peas as needed, so the soil stays moist. Peas are one of the few garden vegetables that don’t need any high-nitrogen fertilizers.
- Harvest peas while they’re still tender and fresh, about three weeks after the vines have bloomed. Use scissors or pointed pruning shears to remove pods from the vines. Pods should be bright green, unblemished and eaten as close to harvest as possible.
- Store whole pods in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Wait to shell until just before using. Peas also freeze well.
- As soon as all the peas are harvested, pull up vines and replant with a warm-season crop, such as beans.
Plants peas with these companions:
- Early potatoes
Avoid planting near garlic, leeks, onions and shallots
Materials for Success
- Soil thermometer
- High-quality compost and manure
- Bacterial inoculant powder for peas
- Trellis, teepee or other support for the vines
- Soaker hose
- Spinach and radish seeds
To learn more about growing artichokes or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center.