A homegrown freshly picked pea tastes nothing like a shop bought one. Children who do not like “normal” peas harvest your homegrown ones as soon as you turn your back. They’re irresistible!
Peas prefer a sunny position with good drainage and do best when planted in the ground. Having said that, if you do not have the space, choose a variety that can grow well in a pot!
Peas are easy to grow from seed from February till June depending on the variety. It is important to research the variety to make sure it is suitable for your specific requirements. Mangetout and sugarsnap varieties are generally the easiest to grow whilst round peas tend to be hardier. There are tall varieties reaching over two metres and short bushier dwarf varieties.
Peas can be sown either outdoors where they are to grow, or under cover to get them off to an early, reliable start.
Sowing indoors or under cover, in February or March, allows you to get an early start and helps to protect the seeds from mice who love to eat them. Your Harvst is perfect for this. Root trainers or a deeper multi cell tray is great to use as peas have long roots. Fill it with compost and sow one or two seeds per cell. Top up with 2-3 cm of compost and water.
Peas can germinate at as low as 6°C but 15-20°C is ideal. At an ideal temperature they tend to germinate very quickly, sometimes within days!
Sow peas outdoors between March and early July but make sure that the soil is not very cold and wet. Choose a sunny, well-drained spot and make a 3cm deep trench, 20cm wide and sow the peas in two parallel lines. Space the seeds 10cm apart in a zigzag manner. Cover the seeds with soil and water. Depending on the soil temperature the seedlings should appear in one or two weeks.
Plant out any peas sown indoors about 15cm apart in rows roughly spaced apart the same height as the variety you are growing. Most peas need support. They climb using shoots called tendrils, which they wrap around what they come into contact with. Large twigs, netting or bamboo canes work great. Put them in at the time of sowing or planting because they can grow fast! Remember to water the plants after you have planted them and then when they start to flower and again two weeks after that.
If you are growing peas in containers choose a large, deep one and remember to keep them well watered. You may also need to feed the plants depending on the size and quality of the compost used.
It is important to regularly harvest peas as otherwise the plant will stop producing flowers and pods. Pick the pods, using two hands, from the bottom of the plant upwards, as the lowest are the most mature. Pods are ready to harvest when they are well filled whilst Mangetout and Sugarsnap varieties should be picked when they’re about 7.5cm long. However, do check the description of your particular variety.
Pea moth is a nuisance pest laying eggs on the flowers. The caterpillars then eat the peas inside the pods. Early and late sowings are generally unaffected as they flower outside the Pea moths flying period. An insect proof mesh may also help to protect your crop.
Mice and voles love to eat the pea seed and are best avoided by starting the plants indoors. Pigeons can also destroy your pea plants and netting or scaring tactics may work.
Peas have the best flavour if they’re picked and eaten straight away. However, they’ll keep for a week in the fridge or freeze the excess.
The botanical name for the pea is pisum sativum and they are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, thiamine (B1), iron and phosphorus.
There are many varieties to choose from and with some careful selection you can have peas to harvest all summer long. It is worth doing some research for the best variety for your growing needs. Here are some trusted varieties.
‘Alderman’ is a great allrounder pea with a long cropping period.
‘Hurst Green Shaft’ is an easy to grow, heavy cropping, sweet tasting English pea that freezes well.
‘Norli’ is a great mangetout that can be started early.