Peas are a crop that provide the freshest of tastes in our gardens. They can be grown throughout the season and fit into most garden spaces. With a number of different varieties available, we can choose peas to match our own culinary preferences or grow a wider range of them. As a timeless garden snack, it takes a very disciplined person to harvest the peas and get them to the kitchen without eating them first!
There are different varieties of peas available to grow and early May is a good time to plant, although earlier sowings are possible.
You will find peas described as early, second early and main crop peas. This indicates when the cultivar is suited to growing and although early crops will grow well throughout the year, main crops will be better suited to later sowings. These different varieties enable successional sowing from February into June.
Earlies will crop the quickest at 10-14 weeks and second earlies at 12-16 weeks whilst main crop peas usually take 14-18 weeks.
Very early sowing peas need protection and to be indoors or in a greenhouse. It’s also important to remember that peas do not like root disturbance. Using root trainers or degradable posts also support growth.
Another consideration is which type of pea. There are round peas, the type we buy frozen, and easier varieties to grow such as mangetout and sugar snap peas, the ones where you can eat the whole pod as well as the peas.
Dependent upon sowing, peas can be harvested from around June and with successional sowing into September.
Peas prefer sunny positions and well-drained soil but will also grow well in lighter and heavier soils. For lighter soils in particular, a mulch is sensible once the peas begin to flower so as to maintain a good moisture level. However, once they start to flower, all peas require good watering and mulching also helps.
Sowing can be done direct or in the transferable pots suggested above. It is best to avoid sowing when soils are very wet or cold as this will impact on germination. Give each plant around 7-9cm space and seed packets will provide the right instructions for your variety. Also remember that peas will be of interest to many garden visitors and so it’s a good idea to sow and grow enough for them as well as you.
Almost all varieties of pea will need a structure to support their growth. Dwarf varieties can get away with no staking as long as they are grown together as they are likely to self-support by intertwining. Early varieties of pea sticks (twiggy branches about 60-90cm long) work well and with taller varieties, staking and netting will provide room to grow and support as the pods develops.
Watering is important and mulching is advisable to ensure good moisture levels guard against powdery mildew.
Harvesting is where the full joy of the pea comes in! Peas need picking regularly to encourage further flowering and more pods. This gives us all the perfect opportunity to do some forage eating as we weed the bed opposite or tend to another garden task. Harvest sugar snap and mangetout when they are around 7-10cm and round peas when the pods feel full.