Peas may be the oldest cultivated vegetable. There is evidence they have been used as a food source going back as far back as ancient Egyptian times. Although it is technically a fruit the Pea is treated as a vegetable for cooking purposes and can be used in a variety of cuisines and as a side dish. They are easy to grow but the growing season is short as they thrive in the cooler temperatures of early to mid-spring. Over the years it has become a common practice amongst gardeners to plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day but you can plant them in the spring as long as the soil is not too damp.
Peas can be grown in USDA Zones 3 through 11 which mean they can be planted just about anywhere in the U.S. Peas are categorized in several ways. Sometimes they are grouped based on height as there are very tall varieties as well as dwarf ones.
However, they are most commonly categorized by their shell otherwise known as a pod:
- Garden Peas also are known as Sweet Pea. The pods on these varieties are inedible.
- Snow Peas have an edible pod and the size of the pea inside the pod is small.
- Snap Peas also have an edible pod but the size of the pea is larger than that of a Snow Pea.
Growing peas successfully requires good planning. It is usually best to prepare the soil in the fall so that it is ready to plant when spring arrives. You want the site to be located in full sun with soil that drains well. The soil doesn’t have to be overly rich but it should be loose and easy to work with early in the spring. If the soil sticks to a shovel or it takes a lot of effort to break up the clumps than you’ll need to add materials such as compost.
Peas can usually be planted 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Once soil temperatures have reached 50 degrees you can plant the pea seeds 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart. If you get a late season snow don’t worry; your peas will survive but if you are hit by a significant snowstorm and the peas are buried for more than a few days you’ll probably have to replant them. If you want to ensure that you have peas to harvest throughout the spring you ’ll want to plant the seed in 2-week intervals as long as outdoor temperatures remain below 70 degrees.
One thing that all peas need is support. Peas are climbers and wrap their tendrils around whatever is around them in an attempt to boost themselves up toward the sun. Even dwarf varieties need some support so a trellis, fencing or some other type of support is needed to keep them off the ground and less susceptible to attack from slugs. Regardless of how you support them, you’ll want to find room in your spring vegetable garden for peas!