How to Grow Peas in Your Garden
Peas require full sun and fertile, well-drained soil for maximum yield. Incorporate plenty of organic matter and a complete fertilizer into the area before planting. When soils are above 40ºF, space rows 12-24 inches apart and plant seeds ½-1 inch deep and 1-2 inches apart in the row. Plant peas until April 1 in warm areas and until May 1 in the cooler areas of Utah. Peas require regular watering particularly at flowering, so maintain soils near field capacity during this time period. Hot temperatures and water stress will reduce yields and pod quality. Organic mulches help conserve water, supply extra nutrients, and reduce weeding. Control insects and diseases if they occur. Harvest snap peas when pods are plump and garden peas when the pods are full but before seeds mature. For dry peas wait until pods are yellow and the seeds are dry. Use fresh peas immediately for best quality.
Recommended Pea Varieties
There are many good pea varieties for sale in local gardening outlets, on-line and through seed catalogs. Most grow well in Utah. Pod shape and size vary among varieties. Here is a limited list of potential varieties and associated plant types.
|Pea Types||Selected Varieties|
|Garden Pea||Dual, Early Frosty, Green Arrow, Little Marvel, Perfection Dark Seeded, Sparkle, Wald|
|Snap/Snow Pea||Dwarf Grey Sugar, Oregon Sugar Pod, Snowflake, Sugar Daddy, Sugar Sprint, Super Sugar Snap|
|Dry Pea||Most garden pea varieties can be grown for dry seed production.|
How to Grow Peas
Peas will grow in all soil types that are rich in organic matter, well-drained, and fertile.
Before planting, determine fertilizer needs with a soil test and then follow the recommendations given with the test report. If fertilizer applications are warranted, work the fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil. If you fertilize with compost, apply no more than 1 inch of well-composted organic matter per 100 square feet of garden area.
Peas are cool weather, frost tolerant vegetables that require soil and air temperatures to remain below 80ºF for best germination and plant growth. Start planting peas as soon as you can till the soil in the spring. Seedlings will emerge in 7-10 days when planted in soil of 55-65ºF. Peas do poorly when temperatures exceed 80ºF.
Planting and Spacing
To plant 100 feet of row, you will need about 2-3 ounces of seed. Extra seed can be stored and used the next year. Plant seeds ½-1 inch deep, spaced 1-2 inches apart, in rows 12-24 inches apart. No thinning is necessary if plant stands are too thick. Plant garden and dry peas every 14-21 days until April 1 in warm regions and May 1 in cooler regions. Peas require 60-70 days to mature depending on variety. Snap peas generally produce pods over a longer time period so only one planting is necessary. Garden peas can be planted again around mid-August in Northern Utah and mid-September in warm areas of Southern Utah for fall production. Mulching the crop during the summer will improve soil water loss and increase nutrient availability. Yields of fall grown peas are much lower than spring sown plantings
Most pea varieties are self-supporting during growth. Taller pea varieties are more productive and easier to harvest if caged, trellised, or fenced. Wooden poles, wire cages, or other fencing materials make ideal supports for peas. Snap and snow peas climb naturally so little additional work is required other than constructing the supports.
Peas require regular watering throughout growth for best production. Soils should be allowed to dry until half of the available water is used before re-watering to field capacity. Do not over water as wet soil promotes root rot diseases and slows plant growth. Water needs are most critical after flowering. Drought stress will decrease yield due to pod abortion and reduce seed size, increase pod stringiness, and alter seed quality. Watering amounts depend on soil type and organic matter content.
Peas do not require additional fertilizer if a fertilizer or compost was applied at planting. Adding more nitrogen will over-stimulate leaf growth, delay flowering and reduce pod set. Peas fix nitrogen from the air via soil bacteria attached to the plant roots.
Mulches and Row Covers
Fabric row covers help protect very early plantings from frosts. Apply organic mulches such as grass clippings, straw, and shredded newspaper in the heat of summer to help control weeds, improve soil water holding capacity, and reduce soil temperatures in autumn pea plantings.
Pea Pest Control
Control weeds with regular cultivation especially when plants are small. Use shallow cultivation to avoid root damage that slows growth. Control weeds during the first 6 weeks of growth.
Insects and Diseases
|Pea Aphid||Aphids are green to pinkish in color and form large colonies under leaves near the tips of new growth. Aphids transmit Pea Enation Virus, which causes curling, mottling, and leaf deformation||Plant virus resistant peas. Wash aphids from plants with a stream of water. Destroy infested plants after harvest. Over fertilizing increases populations. Treat plants with appropriate insecticides.|
|Army Worms and Cutworms||Green, reddish, or black caterpillars up to 2 inches long. Army worms climb the plants and feed on leaves and stems. Cutworms feeding near the soil surface.||Control weeds in the garden that provide cover for worms. Use appropriate insecticides if populations are high. Worms often hide under organic mulches.|
|Pea Weevil||The pea weevil is a brown flecked beetle with a short, broad snout. Females lay eggs on young pods and larvae burrow into the pod and feed on the seed.||Early planting and harvest minimizes exposure. Pick off adults when found and apply appropriate chemicals if populations are high.|
|Fusarium Wilt||Fusarium wilt causes a downward curling leaves and stems become brittle. Stems and roots show yellow-orange discoloration within the vascular tissue. This disease is a problem when soil temperatures exceed 70ºF.||Plant resistant varieties. Plant early, so the crop develops before the soil reaches the optimum temperature for wilt development.|
|Pea Enation Mosaic||Aphid transmitted virus disease. Leaves are mottled, crinkled, and stunted and show white flecking on leaves and pods. Pods may be badly distorted.||Plant resistant varieties. Plant susceptible varieties early to avoid aphids. Control with appropriate insecticides|
|Powdery Mildew||A powdery white fungus grows on the leaf and stem. Plants are dwarfed if infested early. Affected pods may develop small brown to black necrotic spots.||Plant early-maturing or resistant varieties. Spring crops have less mildew problems than autumn plantings.|
|Root Rot and Damping Off||Infected plants are stunted, and lower leaves are yellow. Gray, red, or black lesions form on lower stem and roots.||Avoid compacted and/or wet soils. Seed in spring when soil is below 65ºF. Avoid using too much nitrogen|
How to Harvest Peas
Snap peas are harvested before the pods are fully mature. Pods should be full size, with small seeds, and have firm, crisp flesh when picked. Snap peas are ready for harvest about 5-8 days after flowering. Pick regularly as the plant will flower and mature the pods for 3-4 weeks. Garden peas are ready for harvest about 18-21 days after flowering. Pick the pods when the seeds are plump and shell before use. Use snap or garden peas immediately for best quality and flavor. Refrigerate if not used immediately. Dry peas are harvested when the pods are fully mature and they are beginning to dry. Pull up the plants and lay in a row in the garden for 5-7 days. Once plants are dry, remove the pods, shell out the seeds, and allow additional time for the seeds to dry further. For long term storage, keep in sealed containers in a cool dry place.
Pea Plant Productivity
Expect 2-3 lb. of shelled peas per 10 feet of row from garden types and 3-4 lb. of pods from snap or snow pea types. Plant 15-20 feet of row per person for fresh use and an additional 40-60 feet of row for canning or freezing. With dry peas expect about 15-20 lb. of seed per 100 feet of row.
Pea Nutrition Facts
Green garden peas are a valuable source of protein, iron, and fiber. Sugar snap peas contain less protein, but are an excellent source of iron and vitamin C. Dry peas are high in lysine and tryptophan, an excellent source of protein and carbohydrates, but are low in fat and fiber.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have problems getting my peas to emerge early in the year.
Peas generally germinate and emerge better when soil temperatures are above 40ºF. For very early plantings, germinate seeds indoors prior to planting. These establish more rapidly. As soils warm, you can plant directly to the garden. Finally, older seed or poorly stored seed may not germinate and emerge.
Why are the flowers falling off my plants?
Plants may have been water or heat stressed just prior to or after the flowers open. Pea flowers are very sensitive to temperatures above 80ºF and if dry conditions occur, the plants will shed their flowers. Keep the soil moist and mulch later plantings to minimize these stresses.
Why do pea pods get stringy?
Stringy peas are further evidence of heat or water stress. Fibers in the pods get tougher making the pods less palatable
Published May 2020
Utah State University Extension
Peer-reviewed fact sheet
Dan Drost,Vegetable Specialist