Peas grown in the home garden include garden peas (English peas), snap peas and snow peas. Garden pea seeds are removed from the pod for eating. Snap peas have low fiber pods that are eaten right along with the seeds inside them. Snow peas, with their flat tender pods, are harvested before the peas inside are allowed to develop. All three varieties share several common characteristics.
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The pea plant may adapt to a variety of growing conditions, but it prefers cool, damp weather, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 75 degrees F. Peas may fail to grow properly when the temperature rises above 85 degrees, but they do tolerate a bit of frost. In fact, a light frost in the spring may even be beneficial. When frost damages shoots, it may encourage more secondary shoots to grow, which could increase the yield of peas per plant.
The pea is an annual plant, which means that it needs to be planted anew after each harvest. The pea requires just 60 growing days before harvest.
Pea plants were domesticated in the Near East about 8,000 to 9,000 years ago, according to Cornell University.
Shortly after planting, a pea plant’s roots are invaded by Rhizobium, a common soil bacterium, which begins multiplying. Within a week, nodules form on the roots as the pea plant feeds the bacteria. The nodules grow and turn pink, indicating that nitrogen fixing has begun. This means the pea plant has begun converting inert nitrogen from the atmosphere into biologically useful ammonia. Pea plants build up the soil in this way, benefiting neighboring plants. If plants are left to decompose on the garden or field, they also improve growing conditions for the following season.
Peas, with their white or violet blossoms, may be used in edible landscaping. The leaves of the pea plant are light green or a light blue green, and the fine-textured foliage tends to climb. Non-dwarf varieties may reach a height of eight feet with a spread of six to 12 inches.
Peas are relatively easy to care for as long as they are grown in early spring, in well-drained soil in a sunny spot.