Planting Peas

Shout hurrah because garden season is here again. At the beginning of winter, the long gray days felt as if they would never come to an end, but spring always arrives. It’s time to plant peas! Peas are a cool-season crop and thrive at temperatures below 80 degrees F. In northern Nevada, tradition says plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.

Peas are very frost tolerant and can be planted as soon as the soil rises above 40 degrees F. Seedlings will emerge in seven to 10 days when planted in soil of 55 to 65 degrees F. Peas require fertile, well-drained soil and full sun. For good growth and production, dig in two to three inches of compost and a complete fertilizer (16-16-8) to a depth of six inches before planting. The idea is to promote as much plant development as possible before the heat of late spring and summer arrives. If you prepare the soil with a complete fertilizer prior to planting, you shouldn’t have to fertilize again.

There are many varieties of peas available depending on whether you want edible seeds,    or pods. Garden peas are planted for their seeds and possible varieties include ‘Early Frosty,’ ‘Green Arrow,’ ‘Little Marvel’ or ‘Sparkle.’ For snap or snow peas try ‘Snowflake,’ ‘Sugar Daddy’ or ‘Super Sugar Snap’ to name but a few. If you are interested in dry peas, most garden pea varieties will work. Most will mature in 60 to 70 days.

Sow seeds about one inch deep and two inches apart in the row. Low-growing varieties can be grown in rows 12 to 24 inches apart. Stagger planting garden peas every 14 to 21 days until early April. Snap or snow peas only need one planting. Peas need evenly moist soil, particularly at flowering, but don’t overwater. How often you should water will depend on the soil type, more often on sandy soils and less often on clayey ones. An organic mulch about two inches deep on top of the soil will help conserve soil moisture, keep soil cooler, provide extra nutrients and keep weeds down. Weed control is essential especially in the first six weeks after planting.

Critter protection is a good idea. Rabbits, quail, ground squirrels and deer will love your new seedlings, the plants and the fruit. And, if I’m in the neighborhood, I may also steal a few peas. I love them fresh off the plant.  Let the gardening begin.