What is your favorite vegetable fresh from the garden?
My favorite would have to be homegrown carrots (hello, I wouldn’t be the Carrot Gal unless they were my favorite one).
But a close second is definitely fresh peas!! There really is nothing quite like them.
Those cellophane bags of them at the store don’t do them justice. The packages from the frozen foods section are tasty but are NOTHING like the fresh ones! When they are straight from the garden, they taste so fresh and green and springy.
Is that even a word?
They are also one of the first things you can plant in the spring. Which may be another reason why I love them. I get to start spring with growing peas. And they are usually one of the first things to harvest.
When I was a child, my mom planted peas every year and we had the lovely job as kids (note sarcasm!) to help her pick and shell them all. And man, I’m telling you, she and my dad planted a LOT of peas. I distinctly remember her showing me the exact size to pick them at. Not too small that the seeds were underdeveloped and not too large that they became starchy (the starchy ones were disgusting by the way!).
I got pretty good at recognizing the PERFECT sized pod!
I also remember eating quite a few of those perfect podded peas before they made it into my harvest bowl. Yum!
Thankfully, the ones I grow now are quite a bit more forgiving on when they should be picked than the ones she used to grow.
It wasn’t until I planted my first “sugar snap peas” as an adult that I realized that there was such a thing as a “pole” variety of peas, just like there are pole beans and bush beans.
The kind my mom grew must have been the bush variety of English or shelling peas as they were very short plants. You can imagine my surprise when my sugar snap peas grew super tall and just kept on growing! I now grow them on a trellis but that first planting surprised me with how tall they grew!
It makes sense to me now. I have studied genetics enough to know that there are short and tall pea genes. My daughter even learned about this in science class.
If you would like to learn more, here is an excellent article all about tall and short peas from Dave’sGarden.com.
But suffice it to say that there are 3 types of sweet peas: English or shelling peas (these don’t have edible pods), Snow peas (that are eaten when the pods are flat), and snap peas (these have thick pods that are edible, the most common type is sugar snap peas). All of these come in either long-vining peas and dwarf-vining peas.
Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, is what you will want to grow. My mom’s goal was to fill her freezer with shelled peas so she grew the English or shelling type. And apparently, they were the dwarf kind since they were short plants.
My goal is primarily to have fresh snap peas to eat straight from the garden or to put into a stir fry. So I almost exclusively grow sugar snap peas on a trellis.
This year, I am trying the tiny, dwarf variety called Tom Thumb. We’ll see how that goes!
I encourage you to grow whatever variety suits your pea eating goals.
The process of growing peas is very simple. Dig a small trench in the soil, about 1 inch deep. I usually just draw a line in the soil with my finger. Plant pea seeds every 2-3 inches. I sometimes plant two seeds in each location in case one doesn’t germinate. Water regularly until the seedlings are growing well and are established.
If I’m feeling especially ambitious and organized (which is NOT most years, by the way), I also sometimes sprout the seeds for a day or two before planting them for better germination. As soon as I see the sprout starting to form, I go out and plant them directly in the garden. Very important: don’t let the tails get very long before you plant them outside!! You can find information on how to sprout seeds here.
It is recommended to plant peas 4-6 weeks before your last spring frost date. Where I live, this usually means around mid-March.
If you need help knowing when to plant in your area, get my free gardening cheat sheet here.
Peas really are one of the best things to grow in the garden. They are easy and take very little effort other than getting them started and trellising them if you are going that route. And they taste amazing to boot!
I only wish the harvest season was a tiny bit longer for them. I suppose I could try succession planting for a longer harvest. Maybe on one of those ambitious and organized years, I will try this!
What about you? Have you tried growing peas before? What was your experience like? Do you like shelling peas, snow peas or snap peas and dwarf or vining types? Have YOU tried succession planting them?
I’d love to hear your stories about growing peas. Share them in the comments below.
Happy pea growing!