Southern pea pods
Updated: June 10, 2021

Planting Southern pea facts

  • Hardiness: Tender annual; frost will damage plant tissue.
  • Planting: Southern peas like warm to hot growing conditions. Wait until all danger of frost is passed and the soil has warmed before planting. They grow well during relatively dry summers. For fresh peas all summer plant every 3 weeks. Full sun requires at least 6 hours direct light/day; prefers 8 - 10 hours/day. 
  • Days to maturity: Some varieties are fast (50-55 days) maturing while others take 60 to 90 days.
  • Spacing: Sow seeds 2"-3” apart in rows spaced 3'-4' apart, and cover with 1/2"-1” of soil.
  • Fertilizer needs: Light feeder. Southern peas are legumes and will fix nitrogen once a good root system is established; inoculation will speed the process. Excess nitrogen will delay flowering and encourage top growth at the expense of pods. Side-dressing is usually not necessary. Refer to Fertilizing Vegetables for details.
  • Approximate yield (per 10-foot row): Snap beans, 5 to 10 lbs; lima beans, 5 to 10 lbs.

Growing and care of southern peas

  • Southern peas (Vigna unguiculata) are known by a variety of types and names including “blackeyes,” “cowpeas,” “crowders,” and “field peas”.
  • The peas (seeds) grow inside long fruits (pods) on the bush, vining, or semi-vining plants.    
  • Weeding - Control weeds early. Apply an organic mulch to maintain soil moisture. Plants are vigorous and once established can shade out weeds.
  • Watering – Drought-tolerant. Irrigate at the base of plants if plants are flowering and podding during very hot, dry weather. 

Harvesting Southern peas 

  • For fresh peas; when the pea has reached full size pick the pod and shell the pea. Each pod may contain 20 or more peas.
  • For dried peas; leave the pods on the plants until it has died down but before the pods have split open.

Storage and preservation

  • Store unshelled fresh Southern pea pods in the refrigerator for about a week or more.
  • Fresh peas can be shelled, blanched, cooled in ice water, and frozen.
  • Dried shelled peas keep well in a dry, cool place for many months.