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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Peas: Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Pea Plants

Peas: Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Pea Plants
The Old Farmer's Almanac
Home » Gardening

Botanical name: Pisum sativum, Pisum macrocarpon

Plant type: Vegetable

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Sun exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun

Soil type: Loamy

Soil pH: Neutral

Peas are a cool-season crop, now coming in three separate varieties to suit your garden and cooking needs. They are: Pisum savitum, which includes both garden peas (sweet pea, inedible pod) and snow peas (edible flat pod with small peas inside) and Pisum macrocarpon, snap peas (edible pod with full-size peas). They are easy to grow, but with a very limited growing season. Furthermore, they do not stay fresh long after harvest, so enjoy them while you can!

* To get the best head start, turn over your pea planting beds in the fall, add manure to the soil, and mulch well.
* As with other legumes, pea roots will fix nitrogen in the soil, making it available for other plants.
* Peas will appreciate a good sprinkling of wood ashes to the soil before planting.
* Sow seeds outdoors 4 to 6 weeks before last spring frost, when soil temperatures reach 45 degrees F.
* Plant 1 inch deep (deeper if soil is dry) and 2 inches apart.
* Get them in the ground while the soil is still cool but do not have them sit too long in wet soil. It's a delicate balance of proper timing and weather conditions. For soil that stays wet longer, invest in raised beds.
* A blanket of snow won't hurt emerging pea plants, but several days with temperatures in the teens could. Be prepared to plant again.
* Peas are best grown in temperatures below 70 degrees F.


* Make sure that you have well-drained, humus-rich soil.
* Poke in any seeds that wash out. (A chopstick is an ideal tool for this.)
* Be sure, too, that you don't fertilize the soil too much. Peas are especially sensitive to too much nitrogen, but they may like a little bonemeal, for the phosphorus content.
* Though adding compost or manure to the soil won't hurt, peas don't need heavy doses of fertilizer. They like phosphorus and potassium.
* Water sparsely unless the plants are wilting. Do not let plants dry out, or no pods will be produced.
* For tall and vine varieties, establish poles or a trellis at time of planting.
* Do not hoe around plants to avoid disturbing fragile roots.
* It's best to rotate pea crops every year or two to avoid a buildup of soil-borne diseases.


* Aphids
* Mexican Bean Beetles
* Fusarium Wilt


* Keep your peas well picked to encourage more pods to develop.
* Pick peas in the morning after the dew has dried. They are crispiest then.
* Always use two hands when you pick peas. Secure the vine with one hand and pull the peas off with your other hand.
* Peas can be frozen or kept in the refrigerator for about 5 days. Place in paper bags, then wrap in plastic.
* If you missed your peas' peak period, you can still pick, dry, and shell them for use in winter soups.

Recommended Varieties

* ‘Snowbird’ (snow pea), resistant to fusarium wilt
* ‘Sugar Ann’ (snap pea), early variety, short vine
* ‘Green Arrow’ (garden pea), mid-season variety, high yields, resistant to fusarium wilt

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