University of Maryland Extension

Peas

peas 

  • Hardiness: Hardy annual. They can withstand frosts in spring and fall (best to plant in early spring), may need protection from heavy frosts or freezing. 
  • Planting: Sow seed in garden 1 to 3 inches apart in early spring when soil temperatures reach at least 40 degrees F. Pre-germinate seed for earlier harvests (more information below). Plant in wide rows, about 18 inches apart. Double rows may be spaced 8 to 10 inches apart in rows 18 to 24 inches on center. Plants grown together will hold each other up. Cultivars vary in branching habit. Un-branched types should be planted closer together and branching types planted farther apart. Late maturing, tall cultivars can be trellised to improve growth and make harvest easier. Full sun, requires direct light at least 6 hours/day; prefers 8 - 10 hours/day. 
  • Days to maturity: 50 to 70 from direct seeding.
  • Fertilizer needs  
  • Approximate yield: 3 to 5 pounds per 10-foot row.
  • Common Problem:

Pre-germination 

  • Pre-germination is another method of starting seeds. Sprouting the seeds before they are planted gives them a head start before being planted in the garden. By closely controlling temperature and moisture you can achieve a higher and quicker rate of germination. 
  • Lay pea seeds between the folds of a moistened paper towel and place inside a clear, perforated plastic bag.  Keep seeds moist and in a warm place. When roots begin to show, plant the seeds into containers or directly into your garden. When transplanting seedlings be careful not to break off tender roots.  Keep the transplants from drying out until they become established.
  • Or you can start seeds in a container to set out in the garden later. Place one seed into well-drained soilless potting mixture in a 2- to 3-inch container.  Plant the seeds to only half the recommended depth. Gently press a little moistened media over the sprouted seed. Keep the pots in a warm place and care for them just as for any other newly transplanted seedling.

Planting and Care of Peas

  • Growth is inhibited by acid soils, pH 6.0 and lower.
  • Fall-planted peas often perform poorly in Maryland because seed doesn't germinate readily in warm soil and the first killing frost usually arrives before pods can mature.
  • Three main types of peas grown in the home garden. English or garden peas, snap peas (edible pods), and snow peas (flat edible pods).
  • Determinate cultivars (crop is ready for harvest at the same time) are bushy and less than 3 ft. in height; indeterminate cultivars (crop is harvested over the period of several weeks) will grow to over 5 ft. in height.
  • Starchy peas have a smooth, round seed. Sugary peas have wrinkled seeds.
  • Weeding – Garden pea has a fibrous root system that includes a taproot. Cultivate carefully- slice off young weeds at the soil line or use a thick mulch to prevent weeds.
  • Watering – Keep the root zone moist by watering deeply and regularly during dry periods.  Water more frequently when pods begin to develop as adequate soil moisture is critical at pod fill.

Harvesting

  • Garden peas – harvest and shell when pods are plump and well-filled, but before seed becomes starchy.  
  • Snow peas – pick when pods are large and flat but before seed begins to enlarge.
  • Snap peas (edible pods) – when pods are succulent and seeds are small. Remove “strings” from along the suture of the pod before cooking or eating.

Storage and Preservation 

Cool quickly to remove field heat; 32 degrees F. is ideal.  Store in refrigerator in a vented plastic bag.

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