Whether it’s for their pretty mauve flowers, the way their dainty tendrils curl around the trellis or the pleasure of cracking open their power-packed pods… everybody loves peas and they’re fun to grow!
It is also a great way of getting the little ones started in the garden (read more about gardening for kids).
Types of Peas
- English peas (also known as shelling peas or common garden peas)
The pods of these peas are quite tough and they need to be shelled to harvest the peas for eating, either fresh or cooked.
- Snow peas (also known as Mangetout)
These peas are smaller and the pods are flatter. Both the peas and the pods are tender and can be eaten fresh or cooked. Snow peas are often used whole in stir-fries or salads.
- Sugar snap peas
Sugar snaps are similar to shelling peas, but the shape of their pods is more cylindrical and the peas and shells are both edible. Most of these don’t quite make it to the table, but end up being munched by the pickers!
Sowing Peas Seeds
Position: Full sun
When: April to July
Where: Directly in prepared garden beds or deep pots and containers. Dig in a thick layer of mature compost and ensure the soil drains well. If planting in pots, use a good quality potting soil with good drainage. Although they like to be kept moist, peas don’t like being waterlogged.
If planting in rows, sow the seeds 5-8cm apart in rows that are 40cm apart. When seedlings are about 10cm high, thin out to 30cm apart. Another option is to plant the seeds directly next to the support you use. Plant a few extra seeds, also if you are planting in pots – these can always be thinned out if needed.
Support for Peas
Both climbing and dwarf varieties of peas will need some support to lift the plants off the ground and allow for the movement of air around them. This aids in keeping the plants healthy, which will ensure a better yield.
The dwarf varieties can simply be lifted by inserting a multi-stemmed branch in the ground and letting the peas ramble over it. For the climbing peas, it’s very easy to make a tripod from wooden stakes or any kind of thinnish pole you have available. Alternatively, Lifestyle Home Garden stocks a variety of really beautiful wooden or steel obelisks which will, of course, last longer than one season. They’re great space savers, even for the smallest garden. If planted in rows in the vegetable garden, pea nets are handy for the plants to climb up on.
Caring for Your Peas
Keep the peas moist, especially when they are flowering. As mentioned, ensure good drainage. Always apply mulch to aid in water retention.
Feed the young seedlings weekly with organic seedling food.
One month after sowing, feed with a potassium-rich, water-soluble fertiliser and feed again after flowering.
Peas can be prone to aphids. Check regularly, especially on the undersides of the leaves and spray with an organic aphicide if needed.
Harvest peas when the pods are well-filled and bright green, usually about 3 weeks after flowering. Beware that the snow peas are small and don’t fill out their pods. Pick them when they are still tender and juicy. Pods will mature from the bottom up, so that is where you should start harvesting. Harvest often as picking encourages more growth.
When they have finished bearing, dig the green plant, roots and all, into the soil as an excellent green manure.
Do plant them next to cabbages and other heavy feeders. They are the best at fixing nitrogen in the soil and making it available to neighbouring plants.
Other good companions are caraway, carrots, lavender, nasturtiums, parsley, potatoes, radishes and aromatic herbs, like thyme.
Peas don’t like being planted near onions and garlic.