When to pick peas – Tips on growing your own

So you think you may be ready to pick the peas that you have been growing in your yard? There is nothing that beats the taste of a sweet, young, tender pea, newly popped from its freshly harvested pod and the only way you can really experience that sensation is by growing your own.

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Table of Contents

When to pick peas

As for picking your ‘ordinary’ peas, you’ll know when they are ready about 3 weeks after the flowers have appeared. Gently feel the pods; the peas will be nice and plump. Don’t let the peas get too big, though; they will be starchy and tough if you do. Pick mange tout and sugar snap when the pods are about 7cm long. Start at the bottom of the plant and pick your way up; the more you pick, the more the plant will produce.

fresh peas

Growing Peas Introduction

I bet many of you have already got your pea growing process well underway. For example, my friend always sows her peas in short lengths of plastic guttering which she has drilled drainage holes in, a technique that the late, great Geoff Hamilton pioneered.

Geoff Hamilton Technique

My friend uses a general-purpose compost and pops in the pea seeds about 8cm apart and 3cm deep and keeps the whole thing in her cold greenhouse, watering as necessary, until the soil outside has warmed up and the seedlings are big enough to go out. She hardens them off, of course, before she just slides the entire contents of the guttering into shallow trenches that she’s already prepared.

When the weather is warmer

The soil has warmed up nicely now (it’s June 2022 at the time of writing) and you can sow your seeds directly into the ground knowing that they will germinate rapidly.

Rather than plant single rows, dig out a shallow trench wide enough to take two rows and space the seeds alternately, still keeping them about 8cm apart. Soon they’ll be well on their way to colonising the supports you’ve provided for them to wrap their tendrils around.

Providing your peas with nourishment

Whether you start your peas off under cover or plant them directly into the soil, peas need an open sunny site but sheltered from the wind, with good, fertile soil. Watering is important too. Keep them well-watered all through flowering and right up to the time when you finish harvesting. If they dry out the pods will not develop properly.

plant seeds

Pea Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases can be a nightmare when you’re growing your own peas, so here are some you need to be aware of:

Cydia nigricana

The caterpillar of the pea moth (Cydia nigricana) will happily munch its way through your peas inside the pod without you even knowing – until you open up the pod, that is.

The female moth is attracted to pea plants that are in flower, so the only sure-fire way of preventing her from getting to them in the first place is by growing your peas under insect-proof mesh. This will, by its very definition, exclude other insects, such as bees, but because pea pods are self-pollinating, this won’t have an adverse effect on the crop.

Mice

Mice will be attracted to the seeds, so you may need to place traps to preserve your precious seeds.

Aphids

These tiny, sap-sucking insects will quickly build up to high numbers, particularly if the weather is warm and dry. They can cause the plant to become stunted and the peas may be small and distorted. You can usually just wash them off with a jet of water from the hose pipe or you could try planting some aphid-repellent plants nearby.

Pigeons

Pigeons, the bane of many a gardener, find pea plants irresistible, stripping them down to the stalks in the blink of an eye. Like the mesh for the moth, netting is the only foolproof way of keeping your peas safe.

Powdery Mildew

Not a pest, but a fungal disease which can affect peas is powdery mildew. The best way to avoid this is to make sure the ground is consistently moist, (drought-stressed plants are more susceptible to powdery mildew) and also allow for as much air movement as possible by not planting too close together.

soil moist pea

Pea Varieties

Varieties? A lot depends on what you want to grow. By that I mean, do you want to grow ‘ordinary’ peas in pods, like the ones that I described at the beginning of this post, or do you want to grow mange tout or sugar snap, the ones you eat whole, pod and all?

If it’s for the peas themselves, then good ones to sow now are ‘Balmoral’, ‘Dorian’ or ‘Kelvedon Wonder’. There are also petit pois varieties which produce small, really sweet peas: try ‘Peawee’ or ‘Petit Provencal’.

For mange tout, where you don’t allow the peas to develop at all, try ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ or ‘Reuzensuiker’. Sugar snap peas are where the peas have developed, but you eat the pod too: ‘Sugar Ann’ or ‘Cascadia’ are good varieties to try.

You might even want to grow peas just for the shoots, although I would recommend a completely different approach to grow them: treat these as you would ‘micro-greens’, whereby you only allow the plant to develop a set of tendrils before cutting them. Remember growing cress in the kitchen or blotting paper as a child? That’s the idea.

snow peas

After Harvesting

When you’ve harvested all your peas and the plants are spent, cut the top growth off at ground level and add it to the compost bin. Don’t dig up the roots, however; just chop them up and turn them the soil. During the season, the plants have drawn nitrogen from the air and have ‘fixed’ it in the roots, which will then be released into the soil, providing a valuable source of natural nitrogen.

garden peas

Conclusion

I eat my peas with honey, I’ve done it all my life, It makes the peas taste funny, But it keeps them on the knife! Actually, I don’t eat my peas with honey but when I was writing this post about peas, this little rhyme just popped into my mind. Hopefully you now have a full understanding of when to pick peas aswell as growing your own. So let’s summarise:

  • Pick your peas about 3 weeks after the flowers have appeared

  • Feel the pods for nice, plump peas

  • Don’t let your peas grow too large or they will be tough and starchy

  • Pick mange tout and sugar snaps when pods are 7cm or more in length

  • Use the Geoff Hamilton technique for growing peas in a greenhouse when outside is too cold

  • Grow peas in the ground when you are in the summer months

  • Peas require a sunny, sheltered location with excellent, fertile soil

  • Watch out for pests like Cydia nigricana, mice, aphids and pigeons aswell as fungal disease like Powdery Mildew

  • Different pea varieties you can grow like ‘mange tout’,sugar snap’, Balmoral’, ‘Dorian’, ‘Kelvedon Wonder’, ‘Peawee’, Petit Provencal’, ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’, ‘Reuzensuiker’, Sugar Ann’, ‘Cascadia

  • Growing micro greens

  • Turning the soil to help aid the valuable source of nitrogen from the roots

pea vines

People Also Ask

How do you know when peas are ready to pick?

Wait 3 weeks after the flowers have first appeared. Gently press the pods; the green peas will be plump and round. Don’t let them grow too large though as they will become starchy and hard. Pick mange tout and sugar snap when the pods are approximately 7cm long. Start at the bottom of the plant and work your way up; the more you pick, the more plants will grow in that area.

Why do they harvest peas at night?

Crops, like humans, can be harmed by high temperatures and light stress. Nighttime harvesting may result in fruit that is richer in internal and external quality: sugars, acids, flavor chemicals, color, firmness, and other factors.

sow peas

How often should you water peas?

Water your shelling peas regularly, especially during dry spells. They will need about 1 inch of water per week. You can tell when they need watering as the leaves will start to droop.

Can you plant peas in the same place every year?

Planting them in the same place each year isn’t a good idea because it can lead to the build-up of pests and diseases in the soil. However, if you do want to plant them in the same place, make sure you rotate the crops so that they’re in a different spot each year. This will help to keep the soil healthy.

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Oliver Wright

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