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Cool-Season Vegetables: How To Grow Peas

Fresh peas are a sign of spring, among the sweetest, most enticing offerings of this backyard. They are also less well called a fall and even a winter harvest for moderate regions, as they thrive in cool weather.

There are two general kinds of peas. English peas, also known as shelling peas, require you to “unzip” the pod to make it to the peas. Edible pod peas, which include sugar snap peas (sugar peas) and snow peas, are eaten pod and when they’re immature.

Peas also come in two standard sizes. Tall trellising peas reach up to 8 feet in height and need the aid of trellises, mesh, strings or wires. Smaller noodle peas, up to 4 feet high, do not need as much assistance, although they have a shorter growing season (a plus if optimal weather conditions are limited). The growing requirements for all sorts of peas would be the same.

Though these two kinds of peas would be the most recognizable, there are also soup peas. Many of these are worth growing for their purple color independently, but other non–green pea varieties are also being developed.

More: How to grow cool-season vegetables

The New York Botanical Garden

When to plant: About two months before the final frost date in spring ; in mild-winter climates, sow seeds 2 to 3 weeks prior to the first expected frost date and then sow successively through the autumn.

Days to maturity: 55 to 70

Light requirement: Total sun; supply afternoon shade in warm climates

Water: stay moist during germination, then supply regular water but do not overwater

Shelling peas: Garden Sweet, Green Arrow, Little Marvel, Maestro, Novella II, Survivor, Thomas Laxton, WandoSugar legumes: Mega, Sugar Ann, Sugar Snap, Sugar Sprint, Super Sugar Snap (sensing a theme?) Snow beans: Dwarf Gray Sugar, Gray Sugar, Mammoth Melting Sugar, Oregon Giant, Oregon Sugar Pod II, Snowbird

Beertje Vonk Artist

Here, young pea vines start to climb a support in the middle of a raised-bed backyard in London.

Planting and care: You will need to buy inoculated seeds or inoculate yourself. Make sure the soil is loose and drains well. The soil ought to be rich in organic matter and high in potassium and phosphorus, but not as high in nitrogen, as too much of the nutrient will hinder general creation.

Set up the aid system for your taller varieties initially, then sow seeds about an inch to two inches deep and an inch apart. Keep the soil moist, but do not water too much, as the seeds may rot. Thin seedlings to 2 to 4 inches apart (set transplants out at this spacing and firm the soil around them). Take caution when planting, thinning and weeding because the plants are fragile. Keep an eye out for aphids, beetles and powdery mildew. A mosaic virus is an issue from the northwestern U.S.

Harvest: Shelling peas are ready to harvest when they’ve reached their entire size and the pods are glowing green. Edible peas are prepared whenever the peas are only beginning to form. (you could also wait and crop them in full maturity as you would shelling peas) Start at the bottom of the vines. If you keep harvesting, then they will keep producing.

Brian W. Ferry Photography

Here, blue-podded peas develop in an enclosed vegetable patch in L.A.

Watch more of this edible backyard

More: How to Grow Cool-Season Vegetables

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