Pea Essentials

By National Gardening Association Editors


  • Plant pea seed early in spring as soon as the soil can be worked, and harvest before hot, early summer days occur.
  • Plant dwarf varieties to save space and produce early harvests. Plant tall or pole varieties for bigger harvests over a longer period of time.


  • For early spring planting, select a well-drained site that dries out quickly after the winter.
  • Mix into the soil 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer, or its equivalent, per 100 square feet before planting.
  • Where spring soil stays wet for extended periods, build raised beds in the fall and mix in manure and compost for fertilizer.
  • Erect trellis or supports for all tall varieties before planting.


  • Sow seeds in the early spring 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep and 2 inches apart; for summer plantings where soils are drier, plant 2 inches deep. Plant raised beds in double rows, 6 inches apart with a support structure or trellis in the middle. Allow 24 to 30 inches between double rows of seeds. Plant single rows 3 feet apart with supports alongside each row.
  • Water summer-planted rows often to prevent the sprouts from drying out.


  • Start training the tendrils onto the supports when the plants are about 6 inches tall.
  • When pods are maturing in a hot spell, water daily if necessary to keep up quality.
  • Avoid deep hoeing around peas - the roots are tender and damage easily.
  • Side-dress trellised plants when they are about 6 inches tall at a rate of 1/2 pound of a 1:1 mixture of ammonium sulfate and dehydrated manure per 25 feet of row.
  • See our article Summer's Bad Guys by Charlie Nardozzi for controls of common pea pests such as aphids and slugs.


  • Harvest pods carefully. Use your fingernail to pinch off the pods or use scissors. Pick garden peas when pods are well filled but before they begin to harden or fade in color. Harvest snowpeas when the pods are young and tender and the peas inside are undeveloped. Snap peas are ready when the pods are plump, but still crisp and well colored.
  • Pick peas every day during the harvest period.

Other articles in this series:
1. Preparing to Plant Peas
2. Choosing Pea Varieties
3. Perfecting Your Soil for Peas
4. Growing Peas in Raised Beds
5. About Peanuts
6. How Peanuts Grow
7. Planting Preparation for Peanuts
8. Pea Essentials ← you're on this article right now

This article is a part of our Vegetable Gardening Guide for Peas and Peanuts / Getting Started.

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