growing peas

i live in zone 7 (or 6b to be exact) which means that sweet peas can be planted anytime between february 15 and march 10.  i usually like to start putting all of my cool weather vegetables in around valentine’s day which is about eight weeks before our last hard frost.  however, this year we had heavy snow for about three weeks which left the ground too wet to be worked so it has just been this past week that i have started getting things in the ground.

peas have a tough outer shell making it difficult for them to germinate.  because of this, it is a good idea to give them a head start by soaking them before putting them in your garden bed.    portion out a few, wrap them in a wet paper towel and store in a ziplock bag.  remember, if you are just beginning you want to keep it small.  if you plant all those peas in your seed packet, it will be more than you can handle.  i put in approximately 16 plants and that is plenty for two of us.   sources vary on how long you should soak your seeds.  some say no more than 18 hours, some say no more than 48. some say don’t do it at all.  i have even soaked mine until i see a tiny, white, waxy tail penetrate the seed coat.  a big no-no supposedly as this little tail can get damaged in planting,  but remember the bit in the last post about me being a somewhat unorthodox gardener?  just checking.  last year we had great results with my pre-soaked peas.  more than we were able to eat.  i just say all that to say: soak at your own risk.

take your peas to the garden and, using a small trowel, dig a series of tiny holes about 2″ deep and 2″ apart.  the exact space will depend on the cultivar you choose (see following paragraph).  just look at the seed packet for instructions.   it doesn’t need to be complicated.  you don’t need to take a ruler out with you to measure exactly.  eyeball it and you will be fine.  drop the peas inside the hole, cover with the soil and press down firmly.  water them in well using a fine mist on your garden hose, or using a watering can.  keep the soil moist until the plants start to come  through the surface of the soil.  you will need to check them every day, and most likely water every day.

when it comes to peas there are dwarf cultivars, which grow like a bush and need little support; and there are tall cultivars which grow on a trellis like a vine.  having grown both, i prefer to use a trellis.  it saves space in my otherwise cramped little kitchen garden.  last year we purchased a pea tower from burpee and have been very happy with it.  in addition to supporting the peas, it has a pretty form once it is covered with flowering vines.  after harvest,  when the warmer summer weather sets in, the peas can  be replaced with an ornamental flowering vine just for show.

once the seedlings start to emerge begin to feed lightly with a liquid fertilizer and continue until they are about 2″ tall.  they don’t need much more than that otherwise you will have lots of vine and few peas.  i like to use fish emulsion fertilizer which can be purchased at pretty much any hardware store. add to your watering can according to the label instructions and use it when  you water.   peas are thirsty little guys and will need to be watered often.  continue to check periodically and make sure the soil is consistently moist.   they will be ready for harvest in approximately two months, give or take a few days.

when to harvest will depend on the variety you grow.  again, refer to the seed packet for instructions.  snow peas can be harvested when the pods are a few inches long.  sugar snap peas can be harvested when the pods have filled out.  last year we used the super sugar snap variety from burpee seeds.  i was so pleased with it i decided to use it again this year.   we used the pods both as snow peas, harvesting them early; and as snap peas, leaving them on the vine  a little longer.

i’m still holding my breath to see if mine will do well, having planted them a little later on in the season due to the weather.  hopefully in about two months time we’ll have peas from our garden at our table, at which time i would love to do a few posts featuring some  favorite recipes.

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2 Comments to “growing peas”

  1. i only got one pix. is that right?

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