Here’s a primer on how to plant peas in the garden.
Fresh garden peas are one of our favorite garden vegetables. It might be because they’re so easy to grow or because they’re one of the first veggies to ripen but more than likely it’s because of the incredible sweet flavor of those perfect little green pearls.
We’ve grown regular shelling peas, sugar snap peas and snow peas. We love regular shelling peas the best. When they’re young and fresh, we eat the whole pod. When they’re bigger, we shell them and freeze a few for the winter – if there are any left!
How to Plant Peas
Peas are one of the easiest veggies to grow. Pea seeds are basically dried peas so they’re easy to identify and are quite large – perfect for little fingers.
Peas are a cold weather crop that you can plant as soon as the soil is workable in the spring. They’ll germinate and pop out of the soil when the air and soil temperature has reached their preferred range of 45 to 65°F or 7 to 18°C. If you delay seeding beyond these temps, you’ll have poor germination results. In fact, once summer temperatures arrive, pea plants will stop producing – so it’s good to get them planted early so you can harvest buckets full of peas before that happens.
Seeds, whether peas or any other seed, require moisture to germinate. That’s why consistent watering during the first couple of weeks is critical. So make sure you take a watering can with you or plant right before a rain shower.
For Best Results…
To give peas sufficient water to germinate, soak pea seeds in a bowl of water the night before planting.
Once you’re at the garden…
- Use a hoe or edge of a garden rake to make a trench about 1 inch or 3-4 cm deep.
- Place pea seeds in the trench about 1 inch or 3-4 cm apart. When the plants actually grow, the ideal space between them is about 3 to 4 inches or 7 to 10 cm. But chances are poor germination or garden pests (squirrels or cutworms) will prevent all of them from coming up. So it’s better to over-seed at this stage and thin out any extras later.
- If planting multiple rows, space them about 1 to 1 1/2 feet or 30 to 45 cm apart.
- Cover the row with soil.
- Water the pea rows evenly and consistently until plants are about 2 inches or 5 cm high.
For Best Results…
Your seed package may not tell you this, but peas will produce more and will be easier to pick if you provide some sort of trellis or support for them to grow up on. Even low growing bush peas will do better with a little support. I’ve grown plenty of peas without support – but every time I use a support system I’m glad I did. The peas are definitely easier to find and pick when they’re off the ground.
There are tons of ways to build a trellis for peas. We stick to the very simple chicken wire held up by sticks technique. It’s not the prettiest method, but it works and takes no time to put up and take down.
If possible, put up your support system the same day as your planting your peas. It doesn’t take long for pea seeds to germinate and they’ll want to start climbing right away. Their stems can be delicate and you risk breaking them if you try to support them once they’re out of the ground and growing.
Can’t wait for that first pea.
Want more info on growing peas and pea varieties, here’s University of Illinois article on planting peas.
Here are some other How To’s to get your garden going this season:
Need help planning or getting your vegetable garden going? Get Getty to help you figure things out. Getty Stewart is a freelance Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and avid veggie gardener. She loves growing food and has been doing so forever. Need a workshop or a little one-on-one, Get Getty!