How to Grow Peas
Forget about frozen peas from the supermarket. This season it is time to plant your own peas in the backyard.
Peas are one of my favourite vegetables to grow at home. They are an easy crop for the cool weather veggie patch and grow well up a simple support.
When the pea pods fill out in springtime, I love to eat them straight off the vine. Fresh peas taste so sweet in the garden that they rarely make it into our kitchen!
Grow your own peas
Peas are a great crop to grow over the winter period. Podded peas, sugar snap peas and snow peas are all worth trying.
You might come across pea seedlings in the nursery, but don’t bother with them. Head straight to the seed aisle and pick up a packet of open pollinated seeds. (This means the plants you grow will be true to type; in other words, the seeds are guaranteed to produce the type of peas shown on the packet.)
Prepare your soil
Choose a sunny position in your veggie garden and prime the soil by turning it over with chicken manure and compost ahead of planting. If you’re rotating crops, grow peas in the same spot as your summer crop of sweet corn or tomatoes. The peas will replenish soil nitrogen levels ready for the next round of heavy feeders.
Support your peas
All pea varieties benefit from a little support to help them climb … and it is much easier to install a frame prior to planting. Tackling this afterwards can cause damage to delicate new growth and is also pretty cumbersome as far as gardening jobs go.
For the support you can use a wire frame, bamboo tee pees or jute twine netting. Jute twine netting is my preferred approach. It is a biodegradable product which is easy to cut down at the end of the season and throw into the compost bin, vine and all.
As the peas grow they will send out tendrils, curling around the supports to enable healthy (and enthusiastic) climbing.
It is worth pre-soaking seeds in water overnight before planting. This gives the seed a moisture reserve to kick-start the growth phase.
I typically begin by watering the soil before sowing. Plant seeds just under the surface of the damp soil at 20cm intervals (or according to the suggestions on your seed packet). It is important not to overwater, so leave the soil to dry for a few days and then hose gently again.
Within three or so months beautiful pea flowers will start appearing on your plants. At this stage, be conscious of watering regularly. Pollinated flowers will turn into small seed pods and these mature into delicious, edible peas.
Pick the peas young, and often, to encourage more growth. Protect your plants from birds but also the other notorious pea predator – the rest of your family!
If any peas do make it into the kitchen, you can cook them or freeze to store. I love using podded peas in a risotto on a cool spring evening. But the purest and most rewarding way to eat them is right there in the garden as a late afternoon snack.
Common name: Pea
Botanical name: Pisum sativum
Planting season: Cooler months (autumn to winter)
Harvest: Spring to summer
When the last of your peas have been harvested, dig plants into the soil as a valuable source of nitrogen.