Why Grow Peas?
Peas are almost never available in the shops fresh, always frozen. As soon as a pea is picked from the plant the sugars inside it start to turn to starch which means the flavour starts to deteriorate immediately. So, peas that are cooked immediately after picking will always taste nicer than the frozen alternative. Peas eaten immediately after picking taste incredibly sweet. Kids who wouldn’t touch a pea on their plate will absolutely love them from the pod. Adults too…
Peas can be sown direct in the soil, or in module trays or pots for later transplanting. Peas can be grown for the peas themselves or for the tasty, nutritious shoots for salads and smoothies.
Sow 5cm deep. Dig a trench 15 cm wide and 5cm deep and place the peas on the surface in two staggered rows at least 5cm apart for pods or closer together for shoots. Pea plants can grow to 3 feet tall so give them a bit of space to achieve their potential. You can enjoy fresh peas from May to October if you succession sow (do at least two sowings – late March and late May).
Make sure your container is at least a foot deep and punch some holes in the bottom for drainage. A layer of grit or stones helps prevent water logged soil. Fill your container with soil, scatter your peas over the surface and poke them down with your finger. Cover over and water well. Remember the golden rule of container growing, they need more watering than beds because of the smaller space.
Peas are hungry plants so follow all our GIY soil fertility tips from episode 2 to make sure the soil is full of nutrients for them. Once they get going however you won’t need to feed them as peas are nitrogen “fixers” they can take nitrogen from the air. Peas need support. An effective support is to run lenghts of chicken wire between posts with rows of peas on either side. You can also use “peasticks”, use branches of ash or hazel to create a Pea Teepee. Pea plants send out little tendrils that grasp at anything they can find for support. Water well when they are flowering and watch out for pigeons. The beautiful flowers are edible too and lovely in a salad.
Peas are usually ready to harvest about 3-4 months after sowing. Harvest regularly to encourage pod production. Pinch off the growing tip of the plants when the first pods are ready, this will encourage the plant to focus on pod production. Most peas are taken from the pods to eat, but with mangetout and sugar snap peas the whole pod is eaten. Once the plant is finished cut it down but leave the roots in the soil – the nitrogen that the plant has taken from the air is “fixed” in the soil.
If you are growing to eat the shoots you can pick them once they start appearing but you wont get many, if any pea pods.
Mice can often eat the seeds in the soil, which is another reason to grow them in modules and transplant later. Peas can get powdery mildew in the summer which appears on leaves, use resistant varieties.
Peas can be sown effectively in lengths of old rain-guttering. Fill the gutter with potting compost and sow seeds 5cm apart. When the seedlings are 8cm tall dig a trench in the soil about the same depth as the compost in the gutter and simply slide out the contents of the gutter in to the trench.
Many GIYers grow peas just to eat the growing tips of the young plants which are a trendy delicacy and look great in salads.