Deliciously sweet and super healthy, once you’ve tasted peas you’ve handpicked that very day, you will never go back to frozen.
Garden peas are an easy and extremely attractive crop to grow, adding texture, structure and colour to your garden. They also don’t take up too much space, and you can even grow them in containers meaning they are a perfect addition to any garden, no matter its size.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about growing and caring for garden peas.
What are garden peas?
Botanically, peas are actually classed as fruit as they contain seeds and develop from the ovary of a flower. Peas, or Pisum sativum, are annual plants meaning they have a one-year life cycle.
Immature peas are used as a vegetable and can be consumed fresh, or are preserved frozen or in cans. Mature peas – typically called field peas – produce dry peas and are the basis for pease porridge and pea soup, both medieval dietary staples. Consuming fresh, immature peas was an innovation of early modern cuisine.
These days, peas are one of the most popular crops and are used in cooking worldwide.
Health benefits of garden peas
Peas have been part of the human diet for centuries and, while they taste delicious, they are also extremely good for you. They contain a fair amount of fibre an antioxidant, as well as the bone-building vitamin K and manganese.
Peas also boost your levels of folate, which is a vital micronutrient that helps keep your heart healthy and aids in foetal development during pregnancy. They also boost your immune system thanks to their significant store of vitamin C.
Peas are also low in calories but high in protein, meaning they make you feel full for longer, which means you are less likely to snack on something unhealthy.
It is also believed that peas can also provide protection from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Types of garden peas
There are many, many types of peas, and they all vary in size, shape, colour and taste. Some peas mature early so can be sown in autumn and harvested in June, whilst others won’t mature until October.
With so many types of peas to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite peas to help you get started.
The canoe pea plant bears long, slightly curved pods which resemble a canoe in shape and contain up to twelve peas. The stems of this plant have very few leaves which makes it really easy to harvest the peas. Canoe peas have a lovely sweet flavour and are an excellent option for freezing.
Growing to a height of 75cm and with a spread of 25cm, this variety can be sown in March and will be ready to harvest through July and August. They also produce pretty white flowers which blossom from June to the end of August. These flowers are rich in nectar and are loved by bees and other vital pollinators.
Canoe pea plants grow best in rich, moist, well-drained soil, in full sun or dappled shade.
This highly ornamental, heirloom species of pea plant is said to have been bred in Holland during the 1500s by Capuchin monks.
This variety bears pretty, deep purple bods which contain olive-green peas that can be harvested in July and August. Growing to a height of 1.8 metres and with a spread of 25cm, they also produce lovely pink-white flowers that bloom from June to August. This makes them a great way to add interest to borders.
Capucijner peas are delicious in soups and stews, and the plants thrive best in well-drained soil and full sun or dappled shade. This plant will do well in pots and containers but will need regular watering.
This hardy first early pea plant grows to a height of 60cm and 25cm in spread and has a compact growth habit making it ideal for growing in pots and containers and small gardens.
Avola pea plants yield an abundance of tender pods containing eight deliciously sweet peas. If you find you have a surplus of peas after harvest, the peas can be frozen easily.
This variety also produces white flowers and can be harvested in July and August. As with most pea plants, the Avola will do best in moist, well-drained soil and full sun or dappled shade.
This popular maincrop pea produces prolific crops of long pods, containing as many as ten wrinkly peas each which can be harvested from June all the way through to the end of September. This variety is a firm favourite among gardeners and has even been awarded the Royal Horticulture Society’s prestigious Award of Garden Merit.
Hurst greenshaft pea plants grow to a height of around 1.5 metres and spread to about 20cm in width and grow well in vegetable patches alongside carrots, beans and other yummy veggies.
This variety will thrive in a spot when it can enjoy full sun, in moist, well-drained soil.
Where to grow peas
Peas need a nice open, weed-free site and moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Several weeks prior to planting, we recommend digging a fair amount of well-rotted compost into the soil to improve fertility and help it retain more moisture.
How to grow peas from seed
Pea plants can be sown from seed between March and early July. If you’ve opted for earlier crops that will be ready to harvest in May, then we recommend sowing the seeds in autumn or late winter. Do be aware however that you may lose some of your crops to cold weather and mice.
Once your chosen spot has had well-rotted compost dug into it for several weeks, use a hoe or spade to dig a shallow trench. The trench should be around 22cm wide and about 3cm in depth.
Next, sow the seeds in two parallel lines. The seeds should be spaced about 10cm apart. Cover the seeds with soil and give them a good water. You should see the seedlings poking through after about two weeks.
If you are worried about pests, you can also sow the seeds inside in autumn.
Top tip: if sowing seeds inside, you can use a piece of guttering to ensure that you sow them in a straight line.
How to plant out peas
Before planting, allow the seedlings to harden off over a week. You can then plant them out in the permanent positions.
Without support, pea plants have a tendency to flop over onto the ground. To prevent this, you should make sure you put supports in place early long while the plants are still young.
Pea plants produce long shoots called tendrils which instinctually wrap themselves around anything in their path, so choose long thin supports to help guide and train them up in the right direction.
How to care for peas
Peas should be watered regularly. Once the plants begin producing flowers, we recommend watering the plants thoroughly once a week to encourage good development and help the plants to establish themselves fully.
You can prevent the loss of moisture by applying a nice, thick mulch of well-rotted compost; this will help lock in the moisture for longer.
How to harvest your peas
Usually, peas will be ready for harvest around three months after sowing. Mangetout varieties can be harvested as soon as you can see that peas are forming in the pods. You will know when other types are ready by the swollen appearance of the pods.
Top tip: Peas lose sweetness quickly after harvesting so should be eaten or frozen as soon as possible after harvesting.
Make peas, not war
As you can see, peas are not only easy to grow but incredibly rewarding, both with their beautiful blossoms as well as the delicious, healthy crops they produce.
Peas are a great plant for novice gardeners and, because they grow so well in pots and containers, they can be grown even in the smallest of gardens.
Filled with health benefits and with a delightful, mouth-watering flavour, we are sure that growing these plants will bring peas to your home, not war!