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Peas are one of the first plants that I add to our garden each year. Not only do they grow well in the fall, but growing peas in your fall garden also adds an extra round of harvest. Growing peas is so easy, making it an excellent choice for a child’s garden.
My third child, Connor, loves pea plants. This year, he told me he would eat all of the peas, and I believe him. Last year, I was only able to freeze a few cups; he ate the rest! Fresh, sweet peas from the garden are a treat.
Types of Peas
You’ll find three general types of pea plants that you can add to your garden. Of course, there are many varieties in each broad type.
- Sweet Peas have inedible pods, so you need to shell them before cooking or eating. It takes time to shell these sweet peas, often called garden peas, then you can eat the inside peas raw or cooked.
- Snow Peas have edible, flat pods with small peas inside. Snow peas are great for stir-fry dishes.
- Snap Peas have edible pods with full-size peas. These are the best of both worlds!
Within these categories, you can find bush or pole peas. Bush peas only reach a maximum of 30 inches of height, but they do spread out more. Pole peas can grow taller than three feet tall and require a support system.
How to Plant Peas
Peas are one of the first plants to go in the ground in the spring. By June, in most areas, or earlier, you have a harvest. It’s one of the first vegetables that we can harvest from our garden and enjoy in the spring.
Preparing the Right Location
Peas are a frost hardy crop that needs to be planted in full sun as soon as the soil is workable. Make sure the soil pH level is between 6 and 7.5. If you aren’t sure about the pH level, try a soil meter to find out the level, so that you can make appropriate amendments.
Before I plant my peas in my garden beds, I add manure or compost in the fall or early spring. Peas love phosphorus and potassium, while too much nitrogen can encourage too much foliage growth instead of the pods. Bonemeal is another great choice.
Don’t Forget the Support
Peas are tall and vining, so they need poles or trellis set up at the time of planting. This year, we added vertical arches for the peas to grow up. In past years, I use stakes with twine or a trellis with netting over top. Any of these options work!
Companion Plants for Peas
Peas, as with any other legumes, are great for fixing nitrogen in the soil, so you can plant them near nitrogen-loving friends. Legumes add nitrogen back into the soil, isn’t that handy?
A few suggested pea companion plants are:
- Salad greens
- Aromatic Herbs
Planting Peas Outside
Planting peas outside is easy. My 3-year-old loves to help me; it’s that easy!
Sow the seeds outside 4-6 weeks before your final spring frost date. The soil temperatures should at least 45-degrees F. Line the peas where you want them, 1-2 inches apart. Press them inside the soil 1-inch deep.
A layer of snow won’t hurt your pea plants; they’re frost friendly. However, a week of frigid temperatures might, so be prepared to possibly replant your seeds.
Also, while peas are traditionally considered one of the first crops to plant in the spring, watch the weather and soil temperatures. Temperatures that are too cold and wet can cause the peas to rot instead of sprout. The lower the temperature, the longer it does take for the pea plants to germinate.
Planting Peas in the Fall
Growing peas in the fall garden are just as easy!. You can make a second or third planting of peas in the late summer or early summer. Check your first fall frost date and plant 6-8 weeks prior to this date.
Taking Care of Pea Plants
Pea plants are easy to care for during the growing season. They’re not complicated nor do they require extra care
Make Sure to Water
Peas are a cool-weather loving plant, so they need plenty of water. Water often and watch for signs of wilting. Don’t let your plants dry out, or they won’t produce any pods.
Kick the Weeds
Weeds compete for the nutrients that peas need to grow. Gently remove weeds by hand to avoid damaging the fragile root system of the pea plants.
Laying down mulch around your pea plants is another great idea. Newspaper and straw are two good choices, but you can also try shredded leaves.
Do Peas Need Fertilizer?
We know that peas pull nitrogen from the air, and it takes time for the pea roots to start working their job to fertilize the plant. You can side dress with compost or use a balanced organic fertilizer when the plants are just a few inches tall. Don’t add nitrogen because it leads to tall vines without pods.
Plan to keep your peas well-picked because it encourages more pods to develop. The best time to pick peas is in the morning, after the dew has dried.
When you’re picking peas, be sure to use two hands. Don’t just yank them off the vine, because you can easily snap the vine in two. instead, hold the vine with one hand and gently pull the pea off with your other hand.
Peas can be stored in the refrigerator for about 5-7 days. I’ve had the best success keeping them in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel inside of the baggie.
Another choice is to flash freeze peas. Simply spread them over a baking sheet and place them in the freezer for an hour or two. Then, transfer to a large, gallon-plastic baggie. This method makes it easy to add a scoop or two to recipes.
Useful Items for Growing Peas
- Sonkir Soil pH Meter
- Heavy-Duty Polyester Plant Trellis Netting
- Hydrofoam 4′ Natural Bamboo Stakes
- Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer