If you live in an area with mild winters, you can plant peas in the fall for spring sprouting. In areas with cold winters, however, early spring is a great time to get them started. Peas prefer cool temperatures, which means you can plant them as soon as the ground thaws enough to work the soil.
Peas prefer partial shade to full sun and won’t do well in very wet soil, so do make sure you have good drainage. Raised beds enriched with lots of finished compost are a great place to plant peas.
There are different types of peas to choose from, including shelling, snap, snow and sugar pod peas. I personally like to plant the snap and sugar pea varieties, but you should choose the ones you like best.
One way to plant peas is in rows, and then add stakes for support, but I like to plant some of mine around a “teepee”-shaped structure. This is so simple to do. If you plant a few pea seeds next to each piece of wood or bamboo (or whatever your teepee is made of), the peas will wind themselves around the stucture.
A bonus is that when the peas grow, they will provide shade for lettuces that are planted in the center of the teepee. It’s a perfect situation for both the peas and the greens.
You can start to harvest some pea varieties as soon as 56 days after planting. Others may take a bit longer to be ready, but the tender pea shoots and tendrils can be enjoyed fairly early on (when your peas reach 6 – 8 inches tall, just cut off the top growth plus one set of leaves).
Peas are legumes, and legumes extract nitrogen from the air and store it along their roots.
For this reason, when your peas are done for the season you can dig the roots directly into the soil – they will decompose and release nitrogen for other plants to use.
–Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen.
Photo credits: Winnie Abramson