Peas produce a small yield from the space they occupy – so why grow them? Well, they 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 can be sown direct in the soil, or in module trays for later transplanting. Sow 4cm deep. If sowing direct in the soil, make sure the temperature is consistently above 10 degrees celsius. Dig a trench 15 cm wide and 4cm deep and place the peas on the surface in two staggered rows at least 5cm apart. You can enjoy fresh peas from May to October if you succession sow (do at least two sowings – late March and late May).
Peas are hungry plants - dig in well-rotted manure or compost the previous winter and apply a good quality organic fertiliser just before sowing. 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” (lenghts of hazel). Pea plants send out little tendrils that grasp at anything they can find for support – I’ve always wondered how they “know” where to grasp?! Water well when they are flowering.
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.
Sugar Snap - Delikett
Garden - Greenshaft
Mangetout - Garnet, Sweet Horizon
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.