Beginner’s Guide to Growing and Planting Peas
Growing and planting peas is great fun in the garden and delicious in the kitchen. Peas are a veggie favorite and nothing tastes better than home-grown peas picked fresh from the garden. There are many different pea varieties, grown for both the pea and the pod.
Facts About Pea Plants
The pea plant is a cool-season veggie that is successfully grown in gardens all over the United States. Cool season plants do best in the spring and late summer, which is the best time for planting peas. Most pea fans recommend waiting until late in the growing season for the best tasting peas. Letting them mature fully produces gives the peas time to develop their sugars and makes for the sweetest pea flavors.
Pea plants are generally easy to grow and take care of, so they are favorites not just in the kitchen but in the garden as well. There are 3 basic varieties of pea plant: garden peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas. Garden peas produce the little round peas we love to eat. Snow peas are grown specifically for the pod, so they are picked before the peas develop. Sugar snap peas can be enjoyed for both the pea and the pod. Within these 3 pea categories, gardeners have a great deal of choice when it comes to specific plants. Check the seed packages in your local garden center to see which pea plant will do best in your geographic zone.
Because peas are a cool season veggie, they should be planted in the early spring. When planting pea seeds, they need only be placed ¼” to ½” beneath the surface and then covered with a light coating of soil. Any good garden soil will work well with most types of pea plants. Once the seeds sprout and are ready for transplanting, space them about 1” apart in the garden, leaving about 1 to 2 feet between rows. Pea plants can grow to over 1-foot tall, but the final height of these plants depends on the variety.
Harvesting time for pea plants depends on the type of pea being grown. Garden peas are grown for the actual pea, so they are left longest in the garden to give time for the peas to fully mature. Snow peas are grown for the pod, so they are picked before the pea has time to grow to full size. Sugar snap peas are used for both the pea and the pod, so harvesting time depends solely on the gardener’s desire.
Garden peas are ready to pick when the pod is nicely swollen, showing that the peas inside are fully grown. To begin the harvest, pick just a few pods at first to test the flavor and sweetness. Once the peas are ready, harvest and cook them quickly to enjoy the sweetest and freshest flavor.
Snow peas have to be picked before the pea is fully grown for best results. Therefore, this plant is ready when the pods are still flat and the peas have not grown to a size that will force the pod to swell up. Snow peas will usually flower just before they are ready to be picked. Plucking the pods around 5 to 7 days after flowering makes for a delicious snow pea harvest. Again, these are best enjoyed when cooked fresh out of the garden.
Sugar snap peas fall right in the middle when the pod is not too flat but not too swollen. This way you can enjoy both the pea and the pod at the height of sweetness and flavor.