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Knowledge to Grow by Gail Daniels - Peas


It will soon be planting time for our vegetable gardens. Peas are always a good choice, one that is enjoyed by most people, and easy to grow. Peas are a cool weather vegetable and can be planted as early as April 15 in our area. Additional plantings can be made three weeks apart.

    Peas grow best in temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees and produce poorly in hot weather. Young seedlings can even tolerate frost. The bacteria that grows on the pea roots can produce most of the nitrogen the plants need when the crop is grown in cool, moist soil with a PH between 6.5 and 7.0.

    Here are four types of peas to consider:

    1. Snap peas are eaten whole and both the crunchy pod and the peas inside taste sweet. Snap peas usually produce more food per square foot than the other types.

    2. Snow peas also produce tender, flat pods that are eaten whole. 

    3. Shell peas, often called English peas, were developed in Great Britain.  Sweet green peas are shelled from tough, inedible pods.

    4. Soup peas produce hard, starch-filled seeds for drying inside inedible pods.

    All peas benefit from a trellis to grow on. Prepare a wide planting area by loosening the soil about 10 inches deep and mixing in compost. There is no need to add fertilizer unless your soil is very poor and low in organic matter. Soaking the seeds overnight will insure better germination. Plant the seeds about two inches apart and one inch deep.  Thinning of the plants later is usually needed.

    When the plants are about a foot tall, add mulch to help hold moisture in the soil and maintain a cool environment. Uniform soil moisture helps to insure strong and steady growth.

    Pick snow peas when the pods are full size and the peas inside are just beginning to swell.

    Allow snap peas to change from flat to plump before picking them for best flavor.

    Gather shell peas when the pods begin to show a waxy sheen, but before the color fades.

    Soup peas can be left on the vines until the pods are dry to tan. Allow soup peas to dry at room temperatures after shelling and store in airtight containers.

    Some problems gardeners run into when growing peas include powdery mildew, which causes white patches to form on leaves and pods. However, this problem can be easily prevented by growing resistant varieties.  Rotate peas with non-legume crops to prevent the buildup of soil-dwelling fungi that can cause roots to rot.

    Mosiac virus causes distortion in the new growth and is more common in the Northwest and Northeast. There are several varieties available which are resistant to this virus.

    After the peas are done, you can follow with a planting of carrots or cucumbers.

    The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 260-499-6334 in LaGrange County.