Thursday, February 16, 2012

Planting Peas

I overheard someone in the hardware store last year. They claimed, "You ALWAYS plant your peas on President's Day." Well, it was two weeks past, so I knew I had missed the boat. Then there was the whole Towhee saga. Peas were moderately successful in our garden last year. We had plenty to snack on; however I was not able to freeze as many as I had wished.

This is a new year and right now I am in research mode. First, I created my seed list and checked out that my seeds were safe. Next, I started to calendar when I will be planting everything. Now there is the ideal time to plant and the realistic time. But what if you are unsure WHEN to plant. Off to Google Search and I found this from the WSU Extension campus (which happens to be on our island). Local and trustworthy.
Is it True That Peas Should Be Planted on February 22nd, Washington's Birthday? That seems awfully early.

Some gardeners with light, well-drained soils may want to plant on this traditional date. Most of us with typical, heavy, western Washington soils should wait until early to mid-March. The extra time will allow the soil to dry and warm a bit more.

Peas are quite hardy, but they will rot if planted in cold, soggy soil. Last year on February 22nd I took a picture of ducks wading in a big puddle in the middle of a Seattle community garden. With the unusually wet winter we have had so far, a delay will probably be needed again this spring for many of us. For lots more information on growing peas, see All About Peas. ~ Holly Kennell, Extension Agent, WSU
Alrighty.  Next resource, The Farmer's Almanac. Their site is loaded with great info and I have bookmarked this one that lists the best planting dates for seeds. (The link is for my local info, just type in your zip code to find out yours). Well low and behold, it says from "January 28- February 11". Well, I have missed the boat again!

This year President's Day is on Monday, February 20. That is the day my peas will go in. Last year they went in during the first week of March. We will see!

A bit about growing peas.

1) There are three main types: a) Sugar Snap, b) Shelling and c) Snow. Sugar Snap Peas are a kid-favorite variety because you can pull them right off the vine and have a snack. Plump-bodied and you can eat it pod and all. Very few make it to our kitchen. Shelling Peas are great for blanching and freezing or drying so you can have that fresh spring taste during the winter months. Snow Peas, with their flat pods, are also great for freezing and using fresh in stir-frys, pasta dishes and salads. This year we will be starting out with Sugar Snap and Shelling Peas.

2) Soak before you plant. Get those seeds in some water 12-24 hours before you put them in the ground.

3) Provide them with a climbing space. Once they sprout, they will send out tendrils that be searching for a place to connect. The more they connect, the more they grow. Beware, if you do not provide this space for them, you will end up with a matted mess. I like to use 4" square netting and I gently guide the tendrils to open spaces.

Oops! Give them climbing space.
4) Inoculate or no? Many gardeners use an inoculant of nitrogen-fixing bacteria to boost their seeds. This is helpful in newly tilled soil; however, if you are planting in an established garden, it is not as necessary.

5) Protect those seeds! Last year, I placed cloching fabric over my seeds for the first three weeks. This will keep the birds from picking them clean. Also, once those tender little shoots are popping through, they provide another treat for the local herbivores. Protect, but give them room to grow. I had serious bird issues last year and I forgot to remove the netting I had put up to protect the peas. Serious waste of plants. They started growing all over one another. Boo.

6) Harvest every 1-3 days to keep the plants productive.

7) These are nitrogen-fixing plants and they are great for your soil. When your harvest is done, till the shoots under to compost over the winter for an added boost. Good stuff.

8) Plant extras so you can use the shoots in stir-frys in the Spring. They are delicate and full of that fresh taste Spring brings to our plates from our garden.

When planting:

  • Plant when the temps are cool. Soil needs to be 45 degrees and soil should not stick to your tools. Early Spring or Early Fall in most zones. 
  • Soak your seeds
  • Inoculate your seeds
  • Plant your seeds 1" deep and two inches apart.
  • Give them support.
  • Direct fertilizer can damage the seeds. Be careful.
  • Mulch plants once the shoots have emerged to keep the soil cool.

Which varieties will you be planting this year? Do you have any helpful pea planting tips?

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos


  1. I am enjoying your garden posts and learning how you do things on the 'other side'! :)
    Here our peas must be planted in January and the total spring garden needs to be in the ground by Easter.

    1. Oh, to live where there is a little bit of heat! You have a pretty amazing growing season in comparison to the PNW. When are your peas ready?

  2. I love snow pea shoots! Hope your peas are more plentiful this time around (they look beautiful in the photos!). You are so organised... my garden suffers because I tend to plant, water and love when I think of it rather than on a much needed timetable:(
    Hope you're enjoying being back home in your garden,

    1. Kristina, Last year our garden fell into that category as well. I am amazed at all the people who pull it off with a new baby. I just could not get my act together to have the garden I should have had. Here's to hoping for this year!!


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