Growing Peas the Right Way — From Sugar Snap to Homesteader

Growing peas can be a new experience each planting season depending on the varieties grown.

| May 2013

  • Nylon Net
    Plastic or nylon netting fastened to stakes set firmly in the ground provides a simple, effective support system for growing peas.
    Illustration By Kathryn Rathke
  • Vertical Vegetables Fruit Cover
    “Vertical Vegetable and Fruit,” by Rhonda Massingham Hart, explores the vertical possibilities of popular garden foods.
    Cover Courtesy Storey Publishing

  • Nylon Net
  • Vertical Vegetables Fruit Cover

For anyone who wants to grow food in small spaces, Vertical Vegetables and Fruit (Storey Publishing, 2011) has the solution: Grow up! With tepees, trellises, cages, hanging baskets, wall pockets, stacking pots and multilevel raised beds, gardeners can reap bountiful harvests from the tiniest areas — even an alley, a balcony, rooftop or a windowsill. Master gardener Rhonda Massingham Hart shows you how to construct the site, prepare the soil, and plant and care for vegetables and fruit to produce big yields. From beans on a tepee to tomatoes on a wire archway, cucumbers on a trellis, and kiwis on a clothesline, Hart has something to fit every gardener’s needs. The following excerpt comes from chapter 6, “Peas.” 

You can buy this book from the GRIT store: Vertical Vegetables and Fruit.

Oh, how gardeners need peas. Peas (Pisum sativum) are among the first seeds to be planted in the garden in the spring. Within just a few weeks, their energetic growth, delightful early flowers, and succulent, sweet pods reward the gardener for getting an early start, often during those so-called spring days when the weather is still cold and dreary, and the motivation to be outdoors is low.

Not only do they reward your earliest efforts directly with tasty and abundant crops, but peas also benefit the gardener by more indirect means. Like all legumes, peas, through nodules in their root system, fix nitrogen into the soil by converting it from atmospheric gas into a form usable by plants.

Pea Varieties

Peas differ greatly in growth habit, pod formation, and days to maturity. While many pea vines reach for the sky, merrily scaling 6-foot (2 m) trellises, some dwarf varieties stop short, reaching only 24 to 30 inches (51–76 cm) tall. Tall types need a good solid framework to grow up lest they sprawl into a tangle, and even dwarf varieties benefit from a structural support.

Pod types include English (also called garden or shelling peas), which are shelled to be eaten; snap peas, which are eaten pod and all; and snow peas, which are eaten while the pods are flat and immature. Differing days to maturity allows you to plant several types to extend the harvest all season long. With so many varieties available, consider the following descriptions as only a small sampler of your choices.

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