Did you know that peas were first introduced to France by Catherine de Medici? Or that the United Kingdom has actual pea etiquette- and that the proper way to eat peas is by mashing them with the back of your fork (not scooping them with a fork or spoon like most of us do).
Normally this is the space where I relay a very cute story about my experience with peas and the fact is- I’ve got none. I certainly adore growing sweat pea vines but I’ve never really grown peas for food- even snow peas. And when I was researching peas for this post, I found myself regretting- time and again- that I hadn’t tried growing peas, as they seem very easy and extremely beneficial to the garden.
Peas- all varieties- are nitrogen fixing plants. This means that, with the help of bacteria in the soil, pea plants take nitrogen from the air and convert it into more easily-used forms—which increases the amount of nitrogen in the soil. Peas also have shallow root systems, which means they can help prevent erosion. Peas are cool weather crops, and are split into three groups: shell peas (don’t eat the pods, full-sized peas), snow peas (edible flat pod with small peas), and snap peas (edible pod with full-sized peas). To grow peas, sow seeds outdoors about 4-6 weeks prior to your last spring frost, or when soil temperature is 45°F. If you get some late snow, don’t worry- a blanket of snow will not hurt young pea plants, but several days of very low temperatures can hurt plants—so be ready to plant again if a late winter arctic blast comes your way. Peas like well-drained, humus rich soil, and are not fans of too much fertilizer. Peas need just the right amount of water, which can be tricky; they don’t like to be waterlogged but the soil should not dry out when the pea plants are blooming or when pods are swelling. One rule to follow: water ½” per week until the peas start to bloom, then water 1″ per week until pods fill out. Avoid hoeing around pea plants as the roots are shallow and fragile. For the taller and vining varieties, a trellis or support, such as a Pea Fence is advisable. One tip- plant peas with radishes, spinach, lettuce, and other early greens to make use of garden space, and avoid planting peas near onions or garlic, as the peas will not do well.
Check out Gurney’s for all of your pea gardening needs- especially these varieties:
Miragreen Shell Peas: a Gurney’s Choice, Miragreen is a proven producer and ready to harvest in 68 days. Heat tolerant, so you can grow several times in a season.
Avalanche Snow Peas: Another Gurney’s Choice, Avalanche produces six inch long pods that are resistant to both fusarium wilt and powdery mildew. Ready to harvest in 59 days.
Sugar Ann Snap Peas: This Gurney’s Choice features stringless super sweet pods that are ready for harvesting- and snacking- in 56 days. No need for staking or supports as this is a dwarf variety.