Peas

There’s nothing like the flavour of freshly picked peas – use them as quickly as possible after picking for maximum sweetness. The easiest types to grow are mangetout and sugar snap varieties, while dwarf varieties need little or no supports.

Jobs to do now

  • Keep flowering plants well watered
  • Support with canes or twigs

Month by month

Sow

Peas are easy to grow from seed sown in spring and into early summer, either outdoors where they are to grow, or indoors to get them off to an early, reliable start.

When choosing varieties to grow, bear in mind that round peas tend to be hardier than wrinkled varieties. Mangetout and sugarsnap varieties are generally the easiest to grow.

Different types of peas mature at different rates:

  • First earlies are sown from March to early June and will be ready to pick in 11 to 13 weeks

  • Second earlies are sown from March to June and are ready in around 14 weeks

  • Maincrop cultivars are sown from March to June and take up to 16 weeks

Peas prefer an open, sunny position with good drainage. If your soil is acidic, then add lime before sowing.

Sowing indoors

Sowing in February or March allows you to get an early start, and helps to protect the seeds from being eaten by mice.

Peas are best sown along a length of guttering filled with compost, spacing seeds about 7.5cm (3in) apart. This makes transplanting outside easy, as you have a ready-made row that can simply be slid into a trench. Alternatively, sow in modular trays or small pots.
 

Sowing outdoors

Never sow into cold, wet soil. If spring is slow to arrive, warm the soil with polythene or cloches before sowing, then protect seedlings with horticultural fleece. Still, peas generally prefer cooler weather and grow well in a cool spring.

Make a flat-bottomed trench 5cm (2in) deep and 15cm (6in) wide – a draw hoe is ideal for this. Sow the seeds evenly in the trench about 7.5cm (3in) apart, cover with soil, then lightly firm.

If you sow a second row, space it at a distance equal to the height of the crop.

Grow

Grow

Water the plants when they start to flower and two weeks after. Add a thick mulch around the base of the plants to help prevent the soil drying out.

Most peas, apart from dwarf cultivars, need supports to scramble up. For taller varieties, trellis, bamboo canes and netting are ideal, while smaller varieties can be supported with pea netting or pea sticks (twiggy branches).

After flowering, plants need sufficient water for the pods to swell. Check the soil moisture at root level regularly and water if necessary.

Harvesting

By choosing different types and cultivars, you can harvest from June through to October.

Pods are ready to harvest when they’re well filled. Pick regularly, otherwise the plants will stop producing flowers and pods.

Mangetout and sugarsnap peas should be picked when the pods are about 7.5cm (3in) long, just as the peas are starting to develop.

Recommended Varieties

Peas — mangetout

Peas — sugarsnap

Common problems

Pea moth
Pea moth

This is the caterpillar that you find when shelling your peas. Female moths lay their eggs on peas that are in flower.

Remedy

Early or late peas, flowering outside their flying period, are undamaged, which means March and June sowings are best.  Grow under insect-proof mesh.

Mice
Mice

These rodents will eat the seeds where planted

Remedy

Trapping can be effective for mice in a garden situation, although voles can be harder to control. Break-back traps of the type used against house mice can be effective when set in places where damage is occurring. Pieces of carrot or dessert apple are effective baits for voles, and peanut butter for mice. When using traps or baits out of doors, they must be placed under covers to reduce the risk of other animals interfering with them. Birds are particularly vulnerable to accidental trapping.

Pigeons
Pigeons

Wood pigeons are often the worst bird pest in gardens and on allotments. They peck at leaves, tearing them, sometimes only leaving the stalks. Pigeons can attack many plants, but particularly brassicas and peas.

Remedy

The only certain way of protecting vulnerable plants from pigeons is to grow them under netting or in a fruit cage. Scaring devices or repellent substances are likely to give, at best, only temporary protection. Larger plants such as established lilacs will usually recover from pigeon damage and so it can be tolerated. 

Powdery Mildew
Powdery Mildew

Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivel.

Remedy

Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations.

Recipes

Nigel Slater teams fresh peas with lentils and goats’ cheese in this delicious warm salad.

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.