When to Plant Peas. First of all you need to dig your pea patch as early as the ground can be worked in the spring. When turning the soil, you need to work in generous amounts of organic material such as rotted manure, compost, leaf mold or old hay. For dwarf peas, you dig a flat-bottomed furrow only about 2 inches deep, and 3-4 inches wide. For the tall varieties, which will need a trellis of some sort for support, you need to make the furrow 10 inches wide, set the support in the center, and plant a row of peas on each side. You can also grow tall peas to go up a fence. If you don’t want to bother with a trellis, you can try planting a double row of peas, these will support each other as the vines grow. This method will work best only with moderately tall plants that grow to only about 18 inches. The high climbing peas, 2 1/2 – 3 feet tall, will need extra support.
Your trellis, if you use one, should be set up before planting. Almost any type of support will work: chicken wire, a lightweight plastic mesh purchased from a garden center, or you can set up rows of string expanding between two posts. A rough trellis can be made from several tall, twiggy branches that are staked close together for the entire length of the row.
So when to plant peas for maximum growth? And how should you grow garden peas. Just before planting your seeds, cover the bottom of the trench with a low-nitrogen fertilizer, about 2 ounces for every 10 feet of row, mixed with the soil. A good idea before sowing, dust the pea seeds with a soil inoculant, which is a nitrogen-fixing bacterial culture that will increase the plants’ ability to add nitrogen to the soil. You can purchase this product on-line or at a garden center.
Sow the pea seeds an inch apart and 2 inches deep. In preventing the birds from eating the seeds, you want to cover the rows with plastic netting or use a mesh of string until the peas have sprouted. When the seedlings reach approximately 3 inches high, you want to mound some soil around the stems for support. As plants start growing taller, hook their climbing tendrils around the support you provided.
Peas need quite a bit of moisture, and mulching the rows is an excellent way to both retain moisture and hold down the weeds. Check the soil occasionally to make sure it isn’t dry, if so, water when necessary. Because peas are vulnerable to fungous disease, only water the plants at the soil level, this way the leaves won’t get wet.
When the plants reach 6-8 inches in height, spread a bit of 5-10-10 fertilizer on both sides of each row, approximately 5 ounces per 10 feet of row. In order to avoid fertilizer burn, try not to spill fertilizer granules on the leaves.
If the vines should start to trail away from their support, you can tie them against it with long, narrow strips of cloth or a few pieces of soft twine. Peas taste best if you pick them while they are young and tender. Tough specimens are caused by leaving them on the vine one or two days too long. When to Plant Peas. If you harvest on a regular basis, you will pick the peas when they are just at their prime. Check the lowest pods first and often, because they mature first. Also if mature pods are left on the vine they serve as a sort of signal to the plant to halt production.
Garden peas should be picked when the pods are well filled, but the peas are not yet hard. Edible-pod peas are ready for eating when the pods just begin to swell. If you wait until the pea shapes start showing through the pod, the pods will be much too tough to eat. If snow peas are left too long on the vine, you can still shell and cook them as you do green peas.
Peas must be harvested with care, hold the vine with one hand and pick the pod off with other. Otherwise you run the risk of removing part of the plant.
Remember, peas are heavy feeders and whatever they take out of the soil must be replaced, particularly if you are planning a succession crop in your existing pea patch. When the harvest is over, you can pull up the plants and put them in the compost pile if you have one; or you can dig them directly into the soil. Fertilizing the soil and adding more compost is a must if you are planting another crop in the pea patch.
If there is a large amount of peas on the vine, near the end of harvesting season, you may want to dry those that you cannot use right away.To do so, just leave the pods on the vine until the peas are hard. Then you can pick, shell and dry them in the oven on low for half an hour. Afterwards store them in jars. If keeping them over winter, place jars in a dry place to prevent mold from forming.