Peas – Growing and Care

(Pisum sativum) Fresh, raw peas are basically the candy of the garden, in my humble opinion. Eat them by the handful, the bowlful, the bucketful…

They’re also one of the earliest crops you can harvest, thanks to being one of those few crops that can withstand light frosts and cold, early spring temperatures. Some early varieties produce in as few as 50 days!

Two pea sprouts pushing out of red soil.

Basics

When looking for a place to plant your peas, choose a location that gets a good amount of sun (ideally full sun) and has decently well-draining soil. Peas can survive and produce still in partial sun, but yield and sometimes taste may be affected.

Avoid locations that stay wet and soggy for extremely long times- too much moisture can lead to the seed rotting in the soil instead of germinating.

Some varieties of peas need supports to grow on, such as poles or a trellis. Check the instructions on your seed packet to find out if your peas are one of these. Erect these supports before or at the time of planting. Peas that need support will begin requiring it shortly after sprouting.

Sowing

Peas are a cool-weather crop and struggle in the heat, so they’re usually sown in the garden before your estimated final frost date. Look up what growing zone you’re located in to find out when this for you!

Most places will tell you that you can plant peas once the soil temperatures reach 50 F, but for the sake of those of us who don’t have a soil thermometer, peas can be sown as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring. For a fall planting, sow peas 6-8 weeks before your estimated first frost date.

Sow peas 1 inch deep, either by poking a hole in the garden soil with your finger and dropping the seed in, or carving a furrow out with a hoe. Space each seed roughly 2 inches apart. Cover seeds with soil, and water the planting site well. Keep soil evenly moist, but not soaking, until seeds germinate.

watering

You’re probably not going to have to water your peas often at any point unless you experience a week or more without rain. If you hit a little dry spell like this, test the soil by sticking your finger in it. If it’s still dry several inches in, you should probably water your peas.

If your peas are wilting, they may also need watering. But just in case, test the soil with your finger first! They could just be throwing a fit because it’s too hot out for their liking. If the soil is moist, don’t water! They should perk back up once it cools down in the evening.

fertilizing

Peas probably won’t need fertilizing unless you have very nutrient-depleted soil. Mixing a good scoop of compost in with the garden soil is almost always a good idea, no matter what kind of soil you have!

Adding additional fertilizer beyond what the plants need can result in lots of vines and leaves, but lessened pods. If you think the peas need it, fertilize with a light hand! You can always give them more if they need it, but trying to take the fertilizer out once it’s already been applied isn’t going to go well.

On a side note: Peas fix nitrogen into the soil when the plants are turned under the soil to decompose, helping to fertilize the ground for the next crop. Give it a try if you’ve got depleted or poor soil!

Additional Care

You know how most media likes to show bunnies hopping around, nibbling on carrots? That’s a lie.

The rabbits will come for your peas, and they will nibble them right down to the ground. Some places do not have this problem, but if you live somewhere where seeing a rabbit hopping around in your yard isn’t anything unusual: guard your peas.

Using fencing with holes smaller than 1 inch can thwart them. Some people swear by scattering blood & bone fertilizer, but I have yet to test this and cannot vouch for its effectiveness.

Other than that? All you need to do is wait for the harvest, which usually can take anywhere between 50 (for early varieties) and 70 days!

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