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Best expert advice on growing peas

Pea Seeds Proval

Peas are the sweet treasures of the summer vegetable garden and so simple to cultivate with just a little know-how. We’ve brought together some of the best pea-growing content from the internet, including excellent video tutorials, expert articles, and inspiring instagram posts to help you grow this healthy legume. Whether you want to sow traditional pea seed varieties, or grow sugar snaps or mangetouts, here are some professional tips to help you harvest a bumper crop of peas. 

Contents

Best advice on sowing peas

Pea seeds ‘Hurst Greenshaft’ from Suttons
Growing peas from seed is simple, provided you don’t disturb the seedlings’ long roots
Image: Pea seeds ‘Hurst Greenshaft’ from Suttons

Germinating your pea seeds in compost filled toilet roll tubes or root trainers is the best way to start them off in the propagator or greenhouse, according to Carol, The Sunday Gardener. In her excellent article on how to grow peas she explains how this helps to protect the plant’s long roots when you move them out to the plot.

Muddybootz, aka Nigel Jewkes, says peas were probably the first seeds he sowed as a youngster, so he’s definitely an experienced voice of wisdom! In his very thorough step by step video guide to growing peas on the allotment, he reveals that, because pea seeds have quite a hard shell, he prefers to soak and soften them for 12 to 24 hours in a jar of water before sowing thickly in rain guttering.

Taking this idea a step further, in her super vlog on growing peas, Jessie at Plot 37 shows us how she pre-sprouts her pea seeds by sandwiching them between sheets of wet kitchen paper for a few days. This gives them a head start when sowing them directly in the garden and apparently deters rodents, who are partial to a more crunchy pea seed. 

John at Allotment and Garden shares more tricks for protecting newly sown pea seeds from wildlife thieves in his detailed pea growing guide. He sows under cloches or netting to deter the birds, and to stop mouse raids he pops some spiky gorse clippings or holly leaves on top of the pea seeds before covering them with soil.

To make sure you have a good supply of peas right through the season, Claire at Claire’s Allotment advises you sow some pea seeds each month from March through to September – if the weather is good – so you have a succession of cropping plants and delicious peas for the table. Her straightforward and chatty video also demonstrates how she transfers her pea plants from the seed tray she sowed them in.

You could say that sowing peas is child’s play. Over at The Bridge Cottage Way, Sue and Tim take this literally in a charming video showing their toddler granddaughter Daisy having great fun sowing pea seeds in pots made from recycled newspaper. Less than two weeks later the peas have germinated. We’re looking forward to seeing an update when Daisy picks her first peas.

If you can’t get enough of the exquisite flavour of peas, why not sow seeds all year round, closely packed in a tray on a sunny windowsill indoors, and harvest the seedlings as microgreens, like MT O’Donnell at The Pink Wheelbarrow? She says it’s a great way to use up any seeds you have left over after sowing for your regular crop.

Best advice on planting out peas

Pea seeds 'Oregon Sugar Pod’ from Suttons
To get the best crop, enrich the soil before you plant your peas out
Image: Pea seeds ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ from Suttons

How you plant out your peas will depend, to some extent, on how you’ve germinated the seeds. For larger plots and allotments, the rain gutter method, pioneered by Geoff Hamilton is really popular, as very ably demonstrated by Huw Richards. His highly enthusiastic pea growing video shows him digging a trench in a raised bed and gently shaking the guttering to transfer his tranche of 7cm pea plants into the soil without harming the roots.

Tony at Simplify Gardening is another big fan of the rain guttering method. In his easy to follow pea planting video we see him use a Dutch hoe to make a drill before sliding out generous batches of indoor-sown pea plants, around a foot at a time, from the guttering, and loosely banking up the soil around them to bed them in.

If you find the drainpipe idea a bit daunting, like botanist Becky at Sow Much More, you could take her advice and start your pea seeds off in modules in the greenhouse. In her infectiously upbeat video, The Easiest Way To Grow Peas, Becky – who is bursting with love for sugar snaps – reveals how she plants them out in clumps to avoid root disturbance, achieving bushy, heavy cropping results.

Choosing the perfect spot for your pea plants is a good first step, says The Pink Wheelbarrow – ideally somewhere sunny, but with a bit of shelter from an all-day scorching. Before planting, she enriches the soil with manure or compost.

Tami from Garden of Riley forgot about the peas she sowed in toilet roll tubes in early April, but says they can withstand some neglect and was optimistic about their potential. Her confident Instagram post shows her long-rooted seedlings about to be planted out in late May in her flower beds at home.

Peas can grow happily in a container if your growing space is limited. A couple of clear photos from Jay of Container Gardening UK – who cultivates all his vegetables in big tubs in his tiny back garden – show his sugar snap pea seedlings doing well after being transplanted into 12-litre containers.

Best advice on supporting pea plants

Pea plants ‘Douce Provence’ (12 garden ready plugs) from Suttons
No time to sow seeds? Buy pea plug plants to clamber up your supports. 
Image: Pea plants ‘Douce Provence’ (12 garden ready plugs) from Suttons

Pea plants are climbers, so they do need some kind of support as they get taller, and every gardener has their own preference, with the majority putting the framework in before planting.

Embracing the economical war-time tradition of using homemade pea sticks is Andrew at Life on Pig Row. In his down to earth pea-growing blog post he reveals that he cuts his sticks from hawthorn and hazel early in the year and makes a pitched roof type pea plant support structure out of them. They might not look pretty, but he swears that peas love to cling onto them, and their twiggy formation stops birds from stealing the crop. 

Homegrown Gardener Katrina loves the annual task of planting out peas and uses bamboo canes and garden string to create a bespoke trellis-type support for her module grown sugar snap seedlings. These can easily reach 6ft in height, while her maincrop peas do well with shorter rows of hazel sticks. 

In their clear, illustrated blog post, Karen and Rich at The Garden Smallholder describe how to create sturdy supports for pea plants. They are big fans of natural pea sticks, but recognise that some taller, heavier cropping varieties need something stronger, like their custom chicken wire mesh, string and bamboo cane construction.

You can watch how to make a pea growing frame in just a few minutes, guided by Dan at Allotment Diary. He also uses chicken wire and canes, but prefers the strength and ease of tightening offered by zip ties.

Charles Dowding opts for solid foundations but a flexible approach for his pea support plan. In his comprehensive video on how to grow peas he explains how he spaces out strong two-metre stakes along his planting row, then stretches out string supports once the pea plants are in the ground. Starting with one or two strings, he keeps adding more, 12-14cm apart, to support them as they grow taller.

Best advice on different pea varieties to try

Pea seeds ‘Blauwschokker’ from Suttons
Some peas look as beautiful as they taste
Image: Pea seeds ‘Blauwschokker’ from Suttons

For a rundown of some of the most popular pea varieties, look no further than …and the pods went pop, a very informative post about growing peas from Adrienne Wild at Wild About Gardening. She recommends early croppers like the low-growing ‘Early Onward’, the perennial favourite ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ and the showy ‘Hurst Greenshaft’, as well as ‘Mini Muncher’ (Tom Thumb) that’s ideal for containers. For a splash of colour, she picks ‘Spring Blush’, which has green pods blushed with deep rose.

Mangetout peas – literally meaning “eat all” – aren’t just delicious raw or stir fried, they also come in a lovely range of colours, as recommended by Bryony Willis. She celebrated the, albeit rather late, installation of her pea posts last summer by direct sowing three different mangetout varieties in green, burgundy and gold. 

At Steve’s Seaside Kitchen Garden and Allotment the ‘Oregon Sugar Pods’ are king. In his video about his favourite pea, Steve hails their versatility. You can harvest them at every stage of their growing life – as pea shoots for salads and smoothies or as completely edible pods containing very sweet peas, either fresh or cooked.

A standout all-rounder pea, recommended by The Sunday Gardener in her pea growing guide, is the very attractive pea ‘Blauwschokker’, a heritage variety with purple pods that can be picked as mangetout or left to form tasty, mature green peas.

So, now you have a feast of great tips to help you cultivate a successful crop of delicious peas this summer. All the experts agree that peas are at their sweetest and tastiest when picked and eaten raw, straight from the plant. Will your pea crop make it from your plot to the kitchen?

Lead image: Pea Seeds – Proval

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