How to grow peas

I think my favorite vegetable to grow is peas! They are also one of the easiest vegetables to grow and generally produce well from spring into the hot parts of summer. One vine will produce dozens of pea pods! Plus since they grow up not out, they don't take up a lot of ground space.

Peas growing on fencing trellis in garden

I grow sugar snap peas, snow peas and regular shelling peas. Even though they are different varieties they all pretty much have the same care so this guide will help you with growing all different types of peas! It's crazy how many different types of peas are out there! So lets talk about growing them.

From choosing the perfect variety to troubleshooting common issues, this comprehensive guide will equip you with all the knowledge and techniques you need to ensure a bountiful snow pea harvest. 

Related reading: How to grow bush beans 

How to grow peas

The first thing you'll need to determine is if you have the right place to grow in. All peas need full sun, so at least 8 hours of sun a day if possible. Remember, peas grow up so you'll need space for their trellis or something to grow on and that needs to be in full sun too.

Choosing the Right Variety of Peas

One of the big decisions you'll make is choosing the right variety for your garden. With so many options available, it's important to select a variety that suits your preferences and growing conditions.

First, consider the planting zone in which you are growing your peas. Most varieties are more suited to cooler temperatures, while a few do ok in warmer conditions. Additionally, take into account the size of the pea pods you prefer. Some varieties produce larger pods, while others are more petite. 

Taste preferences should also play a role in your decision making process. Do you prefer sweet, crisp peas, mild taste or more starchy ones? 

Snow peas and sugar snap peas are cooked and eaten in the pod while garden peas or shelling peas need removed from the pod and cooked separately. (Like the kind of peas you buy in a can at the store) To make things more confusing you actually can cook shelling peas in the pod and eat them that way, though the pods tend to have hard membranes that run the length of the pod. 

While edible, they're like chewing hard string and you'll most likely be spitting them out as you go! If you're wondering how I know this, I accidentally mixed up my peas when I was saving seeds for the next year and they're not as easy to tell apart on the vine as you'd think. 

I kept cooking the wrong ones and that's how I discovered that the pods are stringy. Those strings are helpful when shelling peas though, so not bad if you don't try to eat them!

Harvest of peas from the garden

Additionally, be sure to check the days to maturity listed on the seed packet, as this will give you an idea of when you can expect to start harvesting your peas and it's important to pick a pea that works well with the length of your growing season! 

I like to start mine indoors because peas are a cooler season crop and as such they burn out when it gets too hot. Our spring gives way to a super hot summer very quickly so starting them indoors gives me more time to harvest from these vines.

When it comes to personal preferences, consider the flavor, color, and texture of the peas. Do you prefer a crisp and crunchy pea, or a softer and creamier one? Are you looking for a ones to serve in the pod or that must be shelled? Are you looking for something that will stand up to canning well?

Take the time to research the characteristics of each variety and choose the ones that align with your taste preferences and culinary needs. Or purchase (or trade for) seeds of a few different types and try growing them all to compare! Almost all peas have the same care requirements so its easy to grow multiple varieties in the same garden plot. 

Warning: Label ALL your plants if you're growing more than 1 type of pea! You'd be surprised how similar they all look when growing and you might not be able to tell which variety is which. Which brings us right back to me cooking the pods of shelling peas last year!

Don't be afraid to experiment and try different varieties each season. If you want to try a pea that needs more time than your growing season allows, consider starting them indoors up to 2 months before your last frost date to give them the time they need. 

You can also start them indoors in mid summer and move them outside a month or two later so they can grow in the cooler autumn weather.

Handfuls of pea pods just picked form the garden

Preparing the Soil for Growing Peas

Before you can start planting your pea seeds, you'll want to prepare the soil. Peas thrive in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil, so take the time to amend your garden bed with compost or aged manure to ensure your plants have all the nutrients they need. Once your soil is prepped and ready, you can move on to planting or transplanting your peas. 

I always start peas indoors, but there's nothing wrong with direct sowing them! You can direct sow them as soon as the soil warms up from winter and becomes workable.

First you'll want to remove any weeds or grass from the area where you plan to plant your peas. Weeds can compete with your peas for nutrients and water, so it's essential to eliminate them before planting. 

Use a garden hoe or hand tools to carefully remove any unwanted vegetation, being sure to get rid of the roots as well. I like to till, but not everyone does it's completely up to you. 

Once the area is cleared of weeds, it's time to amend the soil with organic matter. This can help improve the soil structure, drainage, and fertility. You can add compost, well-rotted manure or other organic materials to enrich the soil. 

Spread a layer of the organic matter over the planting area and use a garden fork or spade to work it into the soil to a depth of about 6-8 inches.

At this point I like to let it set about a week and then till it again right before planting. This disturbs any weed seeds that have started to sprout and can help cut down on the weeds in your garden. Use a garden rake to break up any clumps and create a smooth, level surface for planting.

Planting and Spacing Peas Correctly

To decide on your planting pattern, consider the spacing requirements for peas. These vining plants don't require much ground space, but they will need a trellis of some type to grow up and out. I space mine about 3" apart. The grow up more than out so the plants can be closer together than other vegetables. 

Your trellis should be at least 5 foot tall to give the pea vines plenty of space to grow. The vines like to climb and without proper support will fall over and break. Using a trellis that is tall enough and wide enough for all your pea plants to spread out will make it easier for air to circulate around the plants, reducing the risk of diseases such as powdery mildew.

I either use a piece of fencing as a trellis or use garden stakes as supports and weave twine around them to give the peas something to grab onto as they grow. 

As you place each seed or seedling into the soil, make sure to follow the recommended planting depth on your seed packet. Typically, peas should be planted about 1 to 1.5 inches deep. This depth allows the seeds to germinate effectively and emerge from the soil with ease. 

If you plant the seeds too shallow, they may struggle to establish strong roots, while planting them too deep can keep them from emerging at all and delay growth.

Also decide how many plants you want to grow based on how you want to use your peas. If you only want enough for cooking and eating them fresh, then 3-4 plants should give you enough for a weekly harvest. If you want to share, can, freeze or otherwise preserve your harvest then you'll want considerably more plants. 

Pea trellis made with garden twine and metal poles

Proper Care When Growing Peas

One common issue when growing any plant from seed can be poor germination. If your seeds are not sprouting or only a few are coming up, it could be due to various factors. One possibility is that the soil temperature is too cold for germination or the seeds are too old. I save new seeds every year for this reason. 

You can also try pre-soaking the seeds overnight in water to help improve germination rates. The post How to pre-germinate seeds has all the information you need for pre sprouting seeds. Only soak peas a day or 2. More then that and they'll get mushy and fall apart, plus they start to stink! They only need about a day to get a jump start on germination.

Mulch around the base of your plants to help keep them from drying out too quickly in between watering. It also helps to cut down on weeds.

Watering is a crucial aspect of caring for your peas. They prefer consistent moisture, so be sure to water them regularly, especially during dry periods. However, be cautious not to overwater, as excessively wet soil can lead to root rot and other issues. 

Aim for a balance, keeping the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.

Fertilizing your peas is another important aspect of their care. Prior to planting, we incorporated compost or well-rotted manure into the soil to provide a nutrient-rich foundation but otherwise I never add fertilizer while they're growing as peas tend to put nitrogen into the soil. 

They are known as a 'nitrogen fixer' as they have a crazy ability add nitrogen to the soil via the bacteria growing there. 

I hope I explained that correctly!

In addition to watering, regular weeding is essential for maintaining the health and vitality of your plants. Weeds compete with the pea plants for nutrients, sunlight, and water, so it's important to stay on top of them. 

Take the time to remove weeds by hand or use a hoe or cultivator to gently loosen the soil and uproot them. This will help prevent them from overtaking your plants and negatively impacting their growth.

Make sure to inspect your plants regularly for signs of nutrient deficiencies, pests, or diseases, and address any issues promptly to keep your pea garden healthy and thriving.

Harvesting and Storing Your Peas

Once your peas have reached maturity, it's time to start harvesting. Harvest them when they are still tender to ensure the best flavor and freshness. Avoid waiting too long, as overripe peas can become tough and lose their sweetness. 

Leave them too long and the pods start to dry out and go to seed and they're useless as food at this point. But you can allow them to dry and save them to plant for next year! I do this yearly to make sure I have all the varieties I like each year! Don't forget to label the seeds you save!

Harvest typically starts around 50-70 days after planting, but it's always a good idea to check the specific instructions for the particular variety you're growing.

To harvest your peas, simply grab the pod firmly but gently and snap it off the plant. I've found it's best to check every day once your peas start producing. There isn't more than a few days between ready and overripe! 

When harvesting, be sure to keep an eye out for any damaged or disease-infected pods. Remove them immediately to prevent the spread of diseases to other healthy plants.

After harvesting, it's time to store your fresh peas. The best way to preserve their crispness and flavor is to keep them in a breathable container such as a perforated plastic bag or a container with ventilation holes. Place them in the refrigerator, where they can stay fresh for up to a week. 

I've left pea pods in a bowl on the counter before and they dry up within a few days, so refrigerator storage is best.

Easy method to preserve peas

If you have a lot peas that you can't use right away, consider preserving them for later use. The easiest way is blanching and freezing. 

To do this, blanch the peas in boiling water for a few minutes, then transfer them to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, drain them and place them in freezer bags or containers before storing them in the freezer. 

If they are a variety of pea you eat in pod, blanch them in the pod and if they are the shelling variety then shell them before blanching.

Use frozen peas within 1 year for best flavor and texture!

Bowl of peas freshly picked form the garden

Common Issues With Peas

One key aspect of successful pea growing is pest control and disease management. Keep your plants healthy by regularly inspecting them for signs of pests or diseases, such as aphids, powdery mildew, or leaf spot aka blight. 

Fungal issues and root rot can be big problems, so water at the roots not on the leaves and never allow the soil to remain soggy for any length of time!

Pests can also be a problem when growing peas. One common pest that targets peas is aphids. These tiny insects can suck the sap from your pea plants, causing stunted growth and curled leaves. Another problem is pea weevils (bean weevils) which crawl into the pea pods to eat the seeds.

To control aphids and weevils, you can try spraying a homemade insecticidal soap solution on the affected plants. Another option is to introduce beneficial insects, such as ladybugs or lacewings, which feed on aphids. There are parasitic wasps that feed on bean weevils, but I would prefer not to add wasps to my garden! I hear they work though.

Related reading: Can I get a ladybug? Dealing with aphids on houseplants.

Another issue you may encounter is powdery mildew. This fungal disease appears as a white powdery coating on the leaves and stems of your pea plants. To prevent powdery mildew, it's important to provide adequate air circulation by spacing your plants properly and avoiding overcrowding. 

This includes pulling weeds near your pea plants as they can impede air circulation too! 

I hope that all helps you to grow a bumper crop of peas this year! Peas are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and just a few plants can provide for several people all season long, so they definitely have a place in my garden. I hope you find a place for them in your garden too!

Related reading: Want to learn more about growing food in containers? Check out all my 10 Ways to Attract bees to your Garden!


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  1. Peas are one crop I always have to plant in my garden. I always do the shelling peas and love eating them right off the plant or cooked. Thanks for your article.

    1. Really? I thought I was the only one that ate peas raw while still in the garden! lol They are so good!