By E. VinjeTweet
A frost-hardy, cool-season vegetable, home gardeners are growing peas wherever a cool season of sufficient duration exists. To enjoy garden peas at their best, pick the pods when they are plump, then shell and eat the sweet, juicy seeds immediately.
Peas are a cool season crop and should never be planted in wet soils or soil that retains water. A sandy, fast draining soil is best. Select a location in full sun and provide support in the form of a trellis or unused tomato cage. Do not grow peas in the same spot more than once every five years. Peas do best when temperatures are between 60-75 degrees F. Each spring, mix plenty of compost into your garden area.
How to Plant:
Allow 2-3 inches between plants. For bush peas, space rows 2 feet apart; plant climbing varieties in rows 3 feet apart or in double rows 6-8 inches apart with a trellis. Allow 3 feet between each double row. A layer of compost worked into the soil at planting time will provide plenty of nutrients and mulching the surface of the soil will prevent moisture loss.
Soak seed in compost tea for 15 minutes or as long as overnight to help prevent disease and speed germination. To promote nitrogen fixation and increase yields treat seed with an inoculant labeled for garden peas before planting.
Note: Nature’s Aid Garden Soil Inoculant (link below) contains billions of live bacteria that are essential in the nitrogen fixating process of legume plants. One can treats 150′ of garden row and will improve the production of peas (including sweet peas) and beans.
Peas are ready to pick about three weeks after flowers appear. Harvest plump peas that are just beginning to appear bumpy; if the pods are discolored or shriveled, they are past their prime. Harvest daily to keep the plants productive. Allow 55 to 75 days from seed to harvest.
Tip: Turn pea plants into the soil after they are done for the year. Legume crops such as peas provide a free source of nitrogen.
Insects and Diseases:
Check for aphids if you notice your plants curling and turning yellow. Plants infested with cabbage maggot will wilt during the heat of the day. Common diseases associated with peas include ascochyta and bacterial blight. Both are characterized by purple to black specks or lesions. If the leaves, stems and pods develop a white powdery mold, treat for powdery mildew.
Tip: Rotate your crop to avoid persistant pest problems.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Peas will cross-pollinate and should be separated by 50 feet to ensure purity. Select only the healthiest plants for seed. Allow pods to dry on the plant before harvesting and separate seeds from pods by hand. If birds become a problem before the pods are completely dry, they can be harvested slightly green and brought indoors to dry.