Five Tips for Planting Peas

Row of peas
Creative Commons License photo credit: lobo235

Update: It looks like lots of people are wanting to know when to plant peas, so I am going to cover that right now, before I get to how to plant them.

  1. Plant by soil temperature, not date! Pea seeds can germinate in temperatures as low as 40 degrees but it will take forever and the seeds may rot, so plant them as soon as the soil temperatures is consistently above 50 degrees.
  2. Peas like cool weather, so don’t wait too long! Once those warm summer days start coming, your pea plants will not be happy.
  3.  If possible, you have prepare the soil in the fall and have everything ready for planting as soon as the soil warms up just a bit.
  4. If you want an extra early harvest, experiment with transplanting. In the comments below, Jay mentions he has good luck starting his peas inside and transplanting the seedlings. I never bother with transplanting for two reasons. First, I want to plant hundreds of peas and I don’t have a greenhouse. Second, transplanting can slow the growth of the little plants if not done carefully, sometimes transplants never manage to grow strong roots which makes for stunted plants. To see if you are getting a benefiting from transplanting, start some seeds inside on the same day you plant some outside, then compare their growth and harvest dates.

Saturday was one of those rare sunny days here in Eugene, a perfect day for planting peas. Back in the day, by which I mean when I was running the community garden at my tiny college in Ohio, Saint Patrick’s Day was the favored day for planting peas. Here in Eugene I’m still experimenting to find the ideal time to plant peas.I was reading the Seed Ambassadors planting calendar for the Southern Willamette Valley last week and was excited to see the peas could be seeded here even in early February.  Last year I didn’t get started in my yardshare garden until April, but the first thing I planted was peas and they were one of my most successful crops. So Saturday I spent the afternoon hoeing down the tiny weeds that had started and planted a whole bed of peas. Peas are one of my favorite vegetables and definitely worth planting because they are expensive in the stores and tastiest when eaten fresh from the garden! Now here are a few tips for getting started when planting peas:

1. Always coat your pea seeds with inoculant. Peas, beans, and other legumes form a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in the soil that helps them get the nitrogen they need to grow. They can only do this if there is a nice community of rhizobial bacteria already living in the soil. The inoculant is a black powder made of these live beneficial bacteria. Before planting your peas get them a bit wet and then roll them around in the powder to coat them.

2. Plant your peas close together. Unlike many garden vegetables that have trouble growing if planted too close together, I have never had problems with planting peas too closely. I plant tall peas in a double row on either side of whatever structure I’m planning to let them climb, about one inch apart. I don’t worry too much about spacing the seeds exactly and they always seem to do fine. Dwarf peas I plant in blocks of four rows, each only a few inches apart. This way the little pea plants grab onto each other and help hold each other up. This also makes it more difficult for weeds to grow in between them.

3. Don’t thin your peas. Peas don’t like to have their roots disturbed and pulling out the tiny seedlings weakens the roots of all the seedlings next to them.

4. Put the climbing structure for your peas up at the same time you plant. Again, tiny pea seedlings don’t like it when their roots are disturbed. If you wait until the peas have sprouted to add something for them to climb on you will risk killing some of your tiny seeds.

5. Protect your seedlings from hungry animals. If you have ever gone to a fancy Asian fusion restaurant you know that pea sprouts are very very tasty! Peas are one of the plants that birds, squirrels, and other animals seem to love to munch on. Once your pea seedlings are a bit bigger they toughen up and there is less chance that a hungry animal will come by and eat them all up. A bit of netting or floating row cover will protect your tiny treasures.

Anyone else have tips or tricks for growing peas? Last year I had good luck growing the snow pea “Oregon Sugar Pod II” and the snap pea “Sugar Sprint” but “Sugar Daddy” didn’t come up very thickly. Any favorite varieties?

5 thoughts on “Five Tips for Planting Peas

  1. JAY

    Go grrl,
    Oregon Giant is MY King (sorry ladies)

    Plant early, profusely, harvest obsessively.

    A. I start them( half dozen vars.) in growers cell flats of 72/96/128
    (Against conventional un-Wisdom)
    B. 1/2- 1″ deep
    C. Bring them in the house or garage, an old car to “force’ germination due to temp.
    C2. Transition them to shady spot/cold frame for a short period.
    D. Use Organic ferts lightly technique like “grow room ferts” technologies of recent.
    E. Do plant them out tight, very tight!
    F. Do far ahead Pre-fert OUT TRANSPLANT SOIL AREA with Bone (P) and a little lime or Ca. and Fish/Alfalfa-esque++mulching Compost ahead of TIME- (TIME and TEMPERATURE)
    G. Legumes NEED HYDRATION// WATER THEM in the top root zone!
    H. PICK EVERY 2/3/4 days or they will degrade and stop producing. (more decline prone) and will depending on variety not be their best!
    I. train them up trellis.
    J. Store picked in cool, lightly humid, and if necessary short-term in cold water bath refrigerated.
    H. Sell or Share with the Locavore community.

    Side note: Practice all the ORGANIC methodologies for pest/disease/food!

    JAY, Eugene OR, Sust./Permaculture kinda guy.

  2. Garden Grrrl Post author

    Wow Jay, thanks for the comment! I have never tried transplanting peas, I will have to give it a trial. Do you find you get earlier harvests that way?

    I agree about picking them frequently. This is one of the reasons that they make such a good crop for a home garden. They are expensive to buy because the picking process takes time and doesn’t happen all at once, you have to do it over and over. When you grow them at home you can pick every few days, it’s fun, and then you get to eat the best, freshest peas.

    I only use organic methods. Feeding the soil is key. With healthy soil everything is easier. I use lots of compost and leaf mold because I don’t have a lot of money and I can make those things for free.

  3. karlandresmith

    When the pea plants start climbing on eachother – is this a problem?
    I’m tempted to untangle them and spread – so is this required.

  4. GardenGrrrl

    Karla, are they a dwarf or a tall type? Also, did you set up a trellis or something to help support them. You could try to untangle them but the little tips are pretty delicate and you might just break them. I usually just let them grab each other unless they are growing in completely the wrong direction. Sometimes I gently tilt them over so the tendrils are touching the trellis. If they are dwarf type then they don’t really need a trellis and you can just let them grab each other.

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