How to Plant and Grow Garden Fresh Peas (2024)

You may have pushed canned peas around on your plate as a kid, but the delight of garden-grown, crisp peas is a different thing altogether.Peas (Pisum sativum) are annuals with hundreds of varieties. They’re divided into several categories, including bush and vining types. Choose peas depending on how you want to eat them—fresh or processed—and for disease resistance and plant size.

  • Snow peas are grown to be eaten as immature pods and peas. They are flat and harvested when the peas are little bumps and not yet fully mature. The pods are tender, sweet, and excellent raw or cooked.
  • Sugar snap peas are halfway between garden peas and snow peas. Sugar snap peas have a thicker, more round pod and more developed seeds at harvest, but they can still be eaten pod and all.
  • Garden peas are traditional peas meant for shelling and freezing or canning. Their pod is not normally eaten and gets tough by the time the peas inside are ripe.

Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) are a different plant altogether. Grown for their lovely scented flowers and climbing nature, sweet peas are a gorgeous spring flower, but not for eating.

Peas Overview

Genus NamePisum sativum
Common NamePeas
Additional Common NamesSnow peas, snap peas, sugar snap peas, garden peas
Plant TypeAnnual, Vegetable
LightPart Sun, Sun
Height2 to 10 feet
Width6 to 18 inches
Flower ColorWhite
Foliage ColorBlue/Green
Special FeaturesGood for Containers
Zones10, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
PropagationSeed

Where to Plant Peas

Plant peas directly in garden beds or containers. Any site with full sun and adequate drainage will work. While they prefer slightly acidic soil, they tolerate a wide pH range.

In containers, use general-purpose potting soil and ensure there is good drainage. Pots should be relatively large, about 12 inches across. Planting in containers is a great way to have climbing peas crawl up the posts of your pergola or provide shade and privacy on a trellis—and they're also a tasty snack.

The 13 Best Potting Soils for Indoor and Outdoor Plants

How and When to Plant Peas

Plant peas in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. If you aren’t sure, plant three to four weeks before your typical last frost date in spring. If you’re growing a vining type that needs a trellis, this is the time to install it so you don’t risk damaging the plant roots later. They’ll need something to climb sooner than you think.

Direct sow peas in the garden. Use your finger or a trowel to make a trench about an inch deep.Drop pea seeds 2 inches apart, cover and firm the soil, and water well. There’s no need to thin them later.

For a fall crop, plant peas about two months before your first frost in fall. Choose early maturing varieties.

Peas Care Tips

Peas are easy to grow and don't need much care other than weeding and watering. They germinate and grow readily, and when grown in the right season, they provide a luscious green wall covered in tasty snacks.

Light

Peas grow fastest and yield the most peas in full sun—at least six hours daily.They tolerate partial shade conditions. Afternoon shade during hot weather can extend the harvest season.

Soil and Water

Peas grow in most soil types as long as it drains adequately. Heavy clay can be problematic. They prefer slightly acidic pH and loamy texture.

Peas need regular water. Provide 1-2 inches of supplemental water weekly if your garden hasn’t received sufficient rain. Use your finger to test the soil an inch below the surface. If it’s dry, you need to water.

Temperature and Humidity

Peas are a cool-season crop that slows down or dies in hot weather. Take advantage of cool spring and fall weather. If you want to grow peas in summer, choose a spot sheltered from the hot afternoon sun and provide plenty of water.

Humidity is not usually a problem for peas unless high humidity is paired with excessively wet soil, in which case, pea plants become vulnerable to root rot and powdery mildew.

Fertilizer

Compost worked into the garden bed at planting time is all peas need in most soils. Optionally, fertilize with any general-purpose fertilizer according to package directions, usually every two to three weeks throughout the early growing season.

Pruning

Pruning is not required. However, when pea plants are 12–14 inches tall, many gardeners cut off the top 4–6 inches to encourage the plants to branch out and create new shoots, increasing the harvest.

Potting and Repotting

Peas are easy to grow in containers. Their roots are shallow, so a 12- or 18-inch container is deep enough, but it must provide excellent drainage. Fill the container with good quality potting soil and position it where it receives full sun part of the day. If the peas are vining types, add a support to the container when you plant the seeds. Because peas are annuals and die at the end of the season, repotting is not necessary.

Harvesting Peas

Snow peas are ready to harvest when the bumps (the little peas inside) are just starting to show. The pods will still be flat.Snap peas are ready to harvest when both the pods and the peas are plump but not yet rigid. The pod should snap like a fresh green bean.

When harvesting pea pods, it’s easy to damage the plant. Use two hands, one to hold the vine and the other to pull the pod. A one-handed yank can take some of the vine with it or rip part of the plant off the trellis. Alternatively, hold a basket below the pod and snip it with scissors.

Peas flower and produce for weeks as long as you keep them picked, similar to deadheading flowers. When you harvest the pods, the plant attempts to reproduce by putting out more. Pick them every day or every other day to get them at the peak of flavor and tenderness.

Pests and Problems

Powdery mildew can be a problem for peas. It looks like white dust on the leaves in the early stages. Eventually, it penetrates the plant tissues and steals nutrients unless caught early and treated with a traditional or organic fungicide.

Common root rot is another fungal disease. Leaves turn yellow, and lesions become visible on the roots. Excessive soil moisture is an enabling factor, so plant peas in an area with excellent drainage.

How to Propagate Peas

Peas are easily to propagate from seed, and you can save some pea seeds for next year’s crop.Let some peas mature on the vine until they harden and dry and the pods wither and turn brown. Give one a shake, and you’ll hear the peas rattle around inside when they’re ready to harvest. Separate the peas from the pods and rinse them. Dry them thoroughly and store them. Don’t forget to label the variety.

Saving seeds from hybrid pea varieties may result in the next generation of plants having differing characteristics from the ones you bought the previous year. For best results, choose open-pollinated or heirloom varieties if you plan to save seed.

Types of Peas

‘Green Beauty’

Pisum sativum ‘Green Beauty’ is a vining, heavy-producing snow pea with tender pods. This giant cultivar produces pods that are huge—up to 8 inches long. The vines reach 6-8 feet long, making this an ideal climber for a tall trellis.

‘Super Sugar Snap’

Pisum sativum ‘Super Sugar Snap’ has a reputation of being the sweetest sugar snap pea ever grown. This open-pollinated snap pea has 5-foot-long vines and heavy, meaty pods. It’s resistant to powdery mildew.

‘Little Marvel’

A shelling pea, Pisum sativum ‘Little Marvel’ has short, 20-inch-high, bushy plants perfect for smaller spaces and containers. The tiny peas are tightly packed into 3-inch pods and are excellent for eating fresh or frozen.

‘Dwarf Grey’

Pisum sativum ‘Dwarf Grey’ is an heirloom variety snap pea with delicious 3-inch pods and tasty tender shoots perfect for salads. This is a medium-sized variety that grows 2-3 feet tall, although they can grow taller under ideal conditions.

Companion Plants for Peas

Beans

How to Plant and Grow Garden Fresh Peas (1)

Beans are a perfect complement to peas in the garden. They like similar soil and sun conditions, but peas grow in cool weather, and beans love the warmth of summer. They combine to save space in the garden.

Lettuce

How to Plant and Grow Garden Fresh Peas (2)

Lettuce grows best in cooler weather, like peas, and you’ll need some gorgeous fresh greens to use as the base in salads when you toss in your peas. Most lettuces won’t bolt until the long days of summer approach.

Root Vegetables

How to Plant and Grow Garden Fresh Peas (3)

Root vegetables like radishes, carrots, and parsnips won’t compete with trellised peas for sunlight, allowing you to plant more in the same space. Radishes are an excellent early spring crop and are ready for harvest in as little as 30 days.

10 Best Companion Plants for Peas

Garden Plan for Peas

Raised-Bed Vegetable Garden Plan

Planning a vegetable garden and successfully harvesting your own produce is easy with this three-season plan for a raised bed. Peas are an excellent addition to this vegetable garden. Begin by planting peas and other cold-weather veggies several weeks before your area’s last spring frost date.

View Garden Plan

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I grow peas without a trellis?

    Absolutely. Many are bushy and, like bush beans, only get 15-20 inches tall. If you don’t want to go vertical, check the vine length or plant height before buying seeds.

  • Can you grow peas from frozen peas?

    Frozen peas you buy from the store will not germinate. While seeds can usually be frozen–and often are in nature–the process of freezing peas involves blanching, which kills the living part of the pea seed. Additionally, frozen peas are harvested before the seed (the pea) matures.

  • How long do peas take to grow?

    Most pea varieties will yield delicious pods at about 55-60 days. It may take longer if you’ve had frigid weather, planted them in less than full sun, or they haven’t received enough water.

How to Plant and Grow Garden Fresh Peas (2024)
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