Freshly grown pea pods beat any kind of frozen, canned, or even farmer’s market peas. The goodness of those tiny green vegetables that our mothers made us eat can be grown in your home garden — and it’s easy to learn how to plant peas.

Peas are grouped into three basic categories: garden peas, snap peas and snow peas. Garden peas, also known as English peas or green peas, are either wrinkled or smooth. The smooth ones are better as dried peas or soup peas while the wrinkled textured peas are more popular for home vegetable gardens due to their sweet taste. Snap peas are usually eaten with the pod, like snap beans. Snow peas, also called sugar peas, are the very tender, flat pea pods.

Peas grow best in cool spring weather. If the soil is too wet or cold the seeds get fungus and rot or barely grow if they sprout. According to agriculture experts, peas should be planted when the soil is warm enough for the seed to sprout (between 45°F and 75°F), yet early enough to produce a crop before the scorching heat of summer, which may destroy the plant.

One of the ways to capture the small window for planting is to warm the soil by covering the seed bed with perforated plastic sheeting. This also hastens germination and growth, as well as discourages rabbits from nibbling the new shoots. Perforations allow water and air to reach the plants. A plastic milk jug with the top and bottom cut off would serve the purpose.

You can plant peas in the fall as long as you have about two months before the first frost.

Since the pea crop requires something to climb on, movable wire fencing around it would work well. Cultivation should be avoided if the soil is too damp, as that would ruin the texture. Adding fertilizers to the planting beds will help bring the pH to 6. A good compost will make the soil healthy and fill it with nutrients and organic matter that helps water retention. Avoid drought and hot feet, which makes the peas stringy, tough and tasteless.

How to plant:

  1. Prepare a fertile soil for pea crops. Compost, processed or well-rotted manure are excellent organic amendments to incorporate with the soil.
  2. Make rows in a north/south direction for best sun exposure and air circulation.
  3. Soak the seeds for an hour or more prior to sowing.
  4. Plant the seeds 1.5 inches deep with about 3 inches between each seed. Rows should be about 18 inches apart.
  5. Plant a double row of peas if you’d like to increase quantity, but leave about 8 inches of space in between the rows. This helps get the trellis in between rows for support (especially for the tall varieties).
  6. Seeds usually germinate in 10 to 20 days, depending upon soil moisture and weather conditions.
  7. Sow seeds at 2- to 3-week intervals, until mid-spring for continual harvest. Heat tolerant varieties can be planted in late summer and harvested in fall for a good fall season crop.
  8. Be certain to put up trellis support for climbing (pole) varieties, as soon as seedlings are 2 to 4 inches high.
  9. When vines begin to die back, either compost or spade them into the soil.