Sweet pea growing on vine
Updated: June 10, 2021

Planting green pea facts

  • Hardiness: Hardy annual. They can withstand heavy frosts in spring and fall (best to plant in early spring). 
  • 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: Heavy user of nitrogen (peas fix little nitrogen). Incorporate fertilizer before seeding. Growth is inhibited by acid soils, pH 6.0 and lower. Refer to Fertilizing Vegetables for details. 
  • Approximate yield: 3 to 5 pounds per 10-foot row.

Pea problems

Bacterial blight

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.  
  • Or you can start seeds indoors in a container to grow transplants. 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. Care for them the same as any other vegetable transplant.

Growing and care of peas

  • Growth is inhibited by acid soils, pH 6.0 and lower.
  • Peas are hardy, but seed germination is delayed when soil temperatures are below 40°F. Warmer soils (up to 75°F.) will speed germination and emergence. Plant growth is favored by intermediate temperatures (65° - 70°F) while flowering is accelerated by long, cool days. 
  • Fall-planted peas often perform poorly in Maryland because seed doesn't germinate readily in warm soil, plants don't grow well in hot weather, 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 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.

Harvesting peas

  • 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.