Pea planting time is here. I love shucking peas and eating them like candy. I also like eating tender pods right off the vine. The good news is that peas are easy to grow. Garden or English peas are grown for their seeds (the peas) and snow peas, sugar peas and sugar snap peas are grown for their edible pods.
Garden peas can be either climbers that need the support of a trellis or low-growing varieties. Snow peas also come as climbing vines that need a trellis or as low-growing varieties. Sugar snap peas grow on tall vines and require a trellis for support.
Peas are a cool season crop. They must be planted early so they flower and set pods before the heat of summer. St Paddy’s Day is the traditional pea planting day. Delay planting a week if soils are excessively wet or cold. Peas require good draining soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.7. Mix in a 8-16-16 (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) fertilizer just before planting and your peas shouldn’t need any further nitrogen during the growing season. Peas do need regular watering, particularly at flowering.
Peas emerge best if soaked overnight in warm water prior to planting. Sow the pea seeds about inch deep and two inches apart in the row. Low-growing varieties can be grown in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Climbing varieties should be planted with three feet between rows.
Some good varieties for shelled peas are ‘Dakota’ (57 days to harvest), ‘Freezonian’ (60 days), ‘Green Arrow’ (68 days, cold tolerant), ‘Lincoln’ (67 days, heat tolerant) and ‘Little Marvel’ (60 days, cold tolerant).
Edible pod types good for high desert gardening include ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ (65 days, bush type plant, flat pods), ‘Sugar Ann’ (56 days, compact plants) and ‘Sugar Snap’ (66 days, vining habit, cold and heat tolerant).
Once peas and pods are ready for harvest, be sure to pick daily for several days or even weeks with succession planting. To eat garden peas raw, pick them young, as soon as the pods are well filled. More mature peas still cook up nicely. Eat snow peas when they are very young, just as the seeds start to form. If you wait too long, the pods will be tough. However, the seeds can still be eaten even though they are starchier and less sweet than garden peas. Sugar snap peas have a thicker pod than snow peas with larger and sweeter seeds.