Even those who think vegetables are tedious love a nicely cooked pea. They are one of the most popular frozen vegetable at the supermarket, but also really easy to grow!
Not just for dinner, we spend much of our time picking them and eating them straight from the pod. This is the very reason that we decided that we needed more than just a trellis in the vegetable patch to grow them on. Tiny tears ensued one day when our then little toddler went out to the garden and couldn’t find one more pea to pick! It’s a tough little life!
When we first began our vegetable garden over ten years ago, one of the first vegetables that we chose were peas, the variety was called “Greenfeast” and we enjoyed peas all summer long in our first two garden beds.
Using fences as mini garden beds...
When the boundary fences went up, we had decided to use farm fencing that had chicken wire between the posts. Well from that moment on, I didn’t see fences anymore, I saw trellises! I got my husband to put an extra piece of wood at the bottom so I could fill it in with a little compost, making a mini-bed, that i could plant peas into all year round.
It’s been so successful that we add more every year and haven’t run out of fencing yet! Peas are shallow rooted, so they are easy to pull out, fill the bottom back up with more well rotted compost and replant with peas. The spent pea plants become mulch or go into the compost to recycle the valuable nutrients, and so the cycle of growing good food continues.
When can you plant peas?
We are lucky in our Cold Zone 10 Mediterranean climate that we can plant peas all year round, except in the 2 coldest months, July and August, although we “cheat” and plant them in the greenhouse at this time, where they grow slowly in module trays.
In many climates you can plant seeds in the ground from early spring to late autumn. When you plant them in the last of autumns warmth, they will come up and grow slowly to about 10cm over the winter period (in our climate) and then will be ready to flower in early spring so you can get those lovely peas nice and early in the season.
Really hard frost will kill peas, so make sure you know what climate you are living in and whether peas could survive a winter like ours do.
How to grow pea seeds.
Plant seeds in well-drained soil, there is no need to pre-soak these seeds. Pea seeds should be kept moist but can rot if they are left sitting in water for too long. Peas need to be planted in full sun. They must get 6-8 hours of sun per day.
Sow seeds 2cms deep, 4-6cm apart in the spring. Sow seeds 4cm deep in the summer to keep the seeds cooler and protected from the heat of the sun. Seeds take one-two weeks to germinate on average, but warmer soil will help them germinate quicker and visa versa.
If you’re planning on saving seeds then plant different varieties at least 3 metres apart to prevent cross-pollination.
Varieties of garden peas can you grow:
Well when it comes to varieties, we have tried a good lot. Surprisingly the first variety “Greenfeast” that we tried has been one of the most delicious but we have also tried these others with great success:
- Massey Gem
- Telephone (or Alderman)
- Purple Podded Dutch.
You can easily save seeds by drying your pea pods, so its easy to swap peas with others or get pea seeds from reputable seed companies.
All the types of peas you can grow...
As well as tasty run of the mill green garden variety peas, you can also grow snow peas, sugar snap peas or coloured pea varieties which are golden or purple.
- Sugar Snap - Sugar snaps have a lovely sweet taste. When young you can eat the whole pod with little peas inside. They are crispy and juicy as well as sweet. If left to maturity, you can shell the peas like normal.
- Purple or golden peas - These coloured peas are rare heirlooms that you can find through seed savers or in Australia the Diggers Club. The golden peas can be eaten pod and all. These peas have nice different coloured flowers, making them stand out in the garden.
- Snow peas - Snow peas are a long flat pod, which you can eat in salads or add to stir fries. You can steam them like many other veg (like broccoli) and add a sweet and crunchy green to your dishes.
Pea Shoots are a thing.
As you can see above, peas can be multi-use if you get the right variety. You can also eat the pea shoots (ends and tendrils) in salads, simply snap off the ends and use them as a salad green. It adds nice pea flavour to any dish. It’s a lovely garnish for a pea risotto.
A bit about watering and feeding...
In our garden, we tend to top up with compost each time we plant, and then we find the plants have enough nutrients to grow. You can buy plant feed and use this weekly, if you have not done this.
We water daily in summer, every 2-3 days in spring and not at all during our rainy winters (but we can get up to 1000mm in a winter here).
Watering in the morning is preferred as peas can be susceptible to mildew. We have had little issue with pests and/or disease.
Peas have plant friends!
There are some wonderful companion plants that go with peas. They can be planted with Beetroot, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Corn, Eggplant, Lettuce, Potato, Sage and Cucumber.
They do not like being planted next to onions, or any alliums really! Please keep them away from Chives, Garlic, Onions and Shallots.
Nothing beats fresh peas from the garden, that burst with juice and add a crunch to your lunches and dinners. It’s the ideal beginner crop for first time gardeners, and if they don’t work out, plant another crop. They will surely succeed in the end, as will you!