How To Grow - Peas

Fresh peas, sweet and tender and straight from the pod, taste completely different to frozen or canned peas – and they’re the perfect vegetable to grow in cooler climates. Full of iron, you can grow different varieties of peas to harvest right through from May to October. Our growing guide makes it easy peasy to grow your own peas!

When and where

Sow pea seeds indoors in April, and outdoors in late May. For best results, you need the space to sow in large drills. When choosing a location, bear in mind that peas are tall with thick foliage – they will cast a shadow onto nearby crops. The soil should be medium rich and water retaining, with plenty of well-rotted manure or compost dug in – however, peas will grow in a variety of soils so it is worth experimenting.

How to plant

Planting out seeds in May, wait until the ground is dry and warm – as seeds will simply rot if planted out in cold, wet conditions. You can ensure the right conditions by covering the ground with a polyethene sheet before you begin sowing. Depending on the number of plants you wish to grow, create a V-shaped drill 5 cm deep. Carefully water the base of the drill and then sow the seeds with a 5 cm space between them. Plant into three rows, then carefully firm down the soil. Tall varieties of a pea should be planted out in single rows with 5 to 10 cm spaces between seeds. The second row of tall peas needs to be at least 30 cm away from the first.

To grow your peas in succession (for an ongoing crop), sow every two weeks. To provide climbing support use either bamboo, wire netting or a trellis – stake the plants once the peas have grown up and their tendrils are reaching for support. If you are growing an early variety, one technique to ensure a higher success rate of propagation is to use a length of old guttering. Ensure that the guttering has drilled in drainage holes along its length, and sow the seeds at 6 cm spaces in seed compost. Place your guttering-trench in a cold frame or a greenhouse. When the seedlings are established, transplant by sliding the seedlings from the guttering and into a shallow trench. Water in. When planted out, cover your seedlings with a cloche to encourage faster growth.

Harvesting

Begin harvesting from the bottom of the plant as this is where the peas will ripen first. Peas are tastiest and best just before they fully mature when they will begin to turn harder and less sweet – so harvest them early. Early harvesting will also ensure a higher frequency of further peas. As a rough indicator, after flowering, it takes three weeks for peas to ripen.

Pick just before you cook them as once picked peas can’t be stored for long as they lose their taste. The harvesting period will be between July and September.

Through the year

Experiment with different methods of supporting your peas – wire netting, canes or twigs. Look at the height estimate on the seed packet as a guide. Pinch out the plants when they have grown to the right height as this will encourage growth further down.

Handy tips

When the plant stops producing new peas, cut the stems of the plant off, leaving the roots in the soil as compost. Nitrogen is stored by peas in little nodules along the roots, and this is then released back into the soil when the roots are left to decompose after the harvest is over.


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