How to Grow Peas From Seed
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Peas are high on my list of vegetables I love to grow (and eat!). We’ve planted peas in our garden every year since we started growing an edible garden, and we’ve always ended up with a bumper crop for fresh eating and freezing for later.
Seriously, every morning that I go out to our garden while our peas are producing, there are dozens more pea pods ripe for the picking! Every. Morning.
We also save the pea seeds (which are some of the easiest seeds to save out of any garden vegetable), and then when the plants are finally finished producing, we mulch them into our compost to add nitrogen back into our soil.
Oh, and have I mentioned how beautiful pea plants and flowers are while they’re growing? Plus, their bright green leaves and purple flowers aren’t just attractive to us humans, they’re attractive to bees and other pollinators too, making them an all-around fantastic addition to any home garden.
And there are so many ways to enjoy them! We eat peas fresh off the vine, add them to salads and stir fries or just eat them raw with a little dip, and we whatever we can’t eat fresh we blanch and freeze for later. I actually still have a bag of peas in my freezer from last summer, and we only grew eight plants!
I guess what I’m trying to say is, you would be crazy NOT to grow peas in your garden too!
We grow Sugar Snap Peas (Dwarf Grey heirloom variety) and LOVE them. But the following growing methods work the same for all pea varieties, although time until harvest will depend on whether you’re growing snap peas, snow peas or shelling peas.
Here’s how to get started growing peas at home…
How to Grow Peas From Seed
- Direct sow seeds outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring.
- Plant in a well-drained area and do not pre-soak. Pea seeds should be kept moist but can rot if they are left sitting in water for too long.
- Seeds can be sown from early to late spring for a summer harvest.
- Seeds can be sown again in summer (July and August) for a fall crop.
- Sow seeds 1” deep, 1-3” apart in the spring. Sow seeds 2” deep in the summer (to keep the seeds cooler and protected from the heat of the sun).
- Seeds take one-two weeks to germinate on average, but warmer soil will help them germinate quicker and visa versa.
- Plant different varieties at least 10 feet apart to prevent cross-pollination (if you plan on saving seeds)
Peas prefer cooler weather, so plant early for an abundant late spring/early summer harvest. However if you don’t get them in the ground as soon as your soil can be worked, don’t worry; There’s a fairly large window for pea-planting so get them in the ground any time before the end of spring (usually by the end of May in cooler and more temperate climates) and you should still get a good summer harvest.
Peas do best when their seeds are direct sown in the place that they will stay. Their roots don’t like being disturbed, and they don’t need to be babied like some other heat-loving or slow-growing plants, so they don’t need to be started indoors. However if you do start them indoors, plant them in pots that can be transplanted directly into the ground without having to remove the pea plant. We use these peat pots, which can go directly into the ground and will break down in the soil and allow the roots to break through them. Homemade newspaper seed pots work well too.
Direct sow seeds 1” deep in the early to mid spring, and sow deeper (up to 2” deep) in the late spring and summer to keep seeds cool and protect them from the heat of the sun. Optimal soil temperature for peas is between 50-70ºF (10-20ºC). Pea seeds usually take one to two weeks to germinate but can take up to a month in cooler soil.
Make sure to plant them in an area with well-drained soil, especially if you get a lot of rain in the spring. Pea seeds can rot if left to sit in water for too long.
Peas are light feeders and actually fix nitrogen in the soil. They also grow vertically, which means they don’t need much space to grow and thrive. Plant seeds 1-3” apart and let them grow. Don’t worry about thinning as they sprout.
Peas are self-pollinators, so there’s very little chance of them crossing with other varieties. Still, if you’re growing more than one variety of pea plants in your garden, try to grow different varieties at least 10 feet apart to prevent any chance of cross-pollination.
Caring for Pea Plants
- Peas plants grow vertically, so they will need a trellis to climb.
- Harvest snap/snow peas early and often. Harvest shelling peas later in the season once peas have had a chance to grow and fill out the pods.
- Save pea seeds by allowing pods to fully ripen and dry out on the vine. Then harvest, remove peas from pods and store in a cool, dry place until next year.
- Once peas have stopped producing, remove vines from the soil, mulch and either add back into the garden to add nitrogen to the soil or add to compost for the same benefit.
Peas require very little hands-on care, however once they sprout, they will need something to climb.
Provide peas with a trellis. You can make your own by constructing a simple wood frame and attaching pieces of twine, build a full wooden trellis, use some cattle panels or chicken wire or you can purchase a ready-made trellis. It’s best to add your trellis at the time of planting so that you don’t disrupt the plants’ roots later on.
If you don’t provide them with something to climb they will not grow tall and will not produce peas (or at least not many), so this is the most important part of growing peas at home. You might need to help train the pea vines to climb the trellis, but all you need to do is guide their tendrils to where you want them to latch on and they’ll do the rest.
Otherwise pea plants are pretty low-maintenance. Usually you’ll get your first harvest roughly a month and a half to two months after planting. Harvest peas with edible pods (snow peas and snap peas) once they reach full-length, but before they fill out too much.
Snow peas have pods that are very flat with small peas, whereas snap peas have edible pods but the peas will grow larger and fill pods out more. Harvest both types often once they start producing (once every two or three days is best). Harvesting often also encourages the plant to produce more, which will increases your over all harvest.
For shelling peas (aka. sweet peas/English peas), wait to harvest them until the peas are large and round and the pods are nice and plump. Since you won’t be eating the pods, you want the peas to get nice and big.
Saving pea seeds is incredibly easy too. To save pea seeds, allow pods to ripen and dry on the vine. Then remove pods and shell (remove) peas from the pods. Store dried peas in a cool, dry place and replant the following year.
Processing and preserving peas
Since peas are high-yielding plants, you’ll probably end up with more peas than you can eat fresh. So what’s the best way to preserve them?
If you’re growing shelling peas, you can dry them, freeze them or can them for use later on. If you’re growing peas with edible pods (snow and/or snap peas), you’re best to freeze them as they don’t lend themselves well to canning.
To freeze peas (any variety), blanch them first in boiling water. Blanch pea pods for 2 or 3 minutes and blanch shelled sweet peas for about 1.5 minutes. Lay them on a tray and flash freeze before transferring to a Ziplock bag.
To dehydrate shelled peas, blanch for 1.5 minutes (long enough to pierce the skin) and then transfer to dehydrator trays to dry. I’ve never tried dehydrating snap/snow peas, but have found lots of recipes online for making pea “crisps” by dehydrating them. So you can dry them if you have a dehydrator and enjoy them year-round, however I haven’t been able to find any information on how well they rehydrate, so let me know if you try it!
If canning shelled peas, be sure to use a pressure canner and follow a tested recipe to ensure a safe final product.
While peas make great candidates for preserving (and it’s nice to have some on hand for year-round eating), don’t forget to enjoy them fresh! Nothing says it’s the start of summer like a salad made with baby greens, sliced garden tomatoes and freshly picked snap peas. Or sauté them and add the to stir fries or enjoy as a side dish with some barbecued meats. And of course, enjoy them straight off the vine. Because the only thing better than dipping into a jar of home-canned food is eating homegrown food right out of the garden:)
For more tips on growing a vegetable garden from seed, check out the following tutorials:
- How to Grow Tomatoes From Seed
- How to Grow Broccoli From Seed
- How to Grow Carrots From Seed
- How to Grow Pumpkins From Seed
- How to Grow, Cure & Store Garlic At Home
And don’t forget to grab a free copy of our FREE Seed Starting Cheat Sheet, with instructions on growing 10 common garden vegetables from seed.
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂
P.S. Want more help growing your own food at home? Download my free guide, How to Grow Your Own Food in Less Than 15 Minutes A Day and learn how to grow an organic grocery store in your backyard even if you’re limited on time!
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Will pea seeds germinate well if saved for 2 years?
Yes, they should, so long as they were stored correctly (ie. allowed to dry out completely before storing if they were saved).