One of the greatest rewards of growing at home is the taste of freshly picked peas, straight from the pod in a home grown salad or even just as you tend your plot. The moment the pea is picked its natural sugars start to break down so make some space in your vegetable garden to enjoy them at their sweetest from late Spring until late Autumn.
Where To Grow
Grow peas in moisture retentive soil rich in organic matter - dig your beds deep in the Autumn and incorporate plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost. The plants will rot at the root if the ground becomes waterlogged so make sure there is reasonable drainage - as with most crops, peas do best in a sunny open spot and don’t enjoy wind, but they will tolerate some light shade.
There are a number of varieties to choose from - garden peas for shelling, peas with edible pods such as flat podded Mangetout and Sugar Snap peas, with thicker, crunchier and more rounded pods.
Height can vary too, with Bush or Dwarf peas typically 45-90 cm tall and climbing peas reaching 2m plus.
Early varieties can be ready to pick as soon as three months from sowing, while maincrop varieties take up to a month longer. You can sow anytime from late Winter - with some added protection from the cold - right through to early summer.
Peas prefer not to have their roots disturbed. They do really well when started in Rootrainers before being transplanted outside - this allows them to develop a super strong root system which should lead to a bigger crop.
Sow the seeds into Rootrainers two seeds per cell - use a multi-purpose potting mix, and push it right down into each cell to ensure they are filled right to the bottom and then water to really soak the potting mix through.
Once the soil has warmed up a little and the risk of cold waterlogged soil is past, peas can also be sown directly where they are to grow. Sow into well-drained, fertile soil in a sunny position.
Create a wide trench about 5 cm deep and plant seeds 5-7 cm apart along the bottom of it - cover them with soil and water well.
Alternatively they can be planted in containers such as the Pea & Bean Planter are ideal if you have limited space in the garden - the planter has 6 cane pockets to hold Bamboo Canes in place can be moved around without disturbing the plants.
Once the crop reaches around 8 cm provide support using Pea Sticks, Plant Netting or a Frame and regularly, especially when the plants are in flower - mulch with garden compost to help with moisture retention.
Harvesting & Storing
Harvest from the bottom of the plant - where the peas will mature first - when the pods are plump but not fully grown. If you are growing Mangetout or Sugar Snap pea varieties pick early side to avoid pods becoming tough and don’t be afraid to pick too many - the more you pick the more they’ll grow!
Peas are best eaten straight away, but will also freeze well in container or can be left to dry in their pods – wait until you can hear them rattle – and stored in an airtight container to use in stews or soups.
Pest & Diseases
Pigeons and small birds can devastate young crops – Micromesh Netting is good protection for maturing seedlings - once they reach the support stage the birds should leave them largely alone.
Pea Thrips can cause Silvery patches on the pods and leaves but a mild infestation should not affect the yield - biological control can be used if it begins to become more of a problem.
Pea moths may also lay their eggs when the peas are in flower leading to small white caterpillars inside the mature pods – you can avoid by sowing early or late to avoid the breeding season or using Micromesh Netting to prevent female moths laying eggs on the plants - peas are self-pollinating and so excluding bees and other pollinators with Fleece will not affect the crop.