Time to get your peas in!.jpg

Time to get your peas in!

BY: Paul McKay

Email: [email protected]

Everyone enjoys a good pea. The variety of garden peas available is immense, from the small sweet Petit pois to the huge Marrowfat peas, which are often dried and stored for use later in the year. The newer Mange tout and Sugar snap varieties provide more value for your effort, as the tender pod is eaten along with the pea.

Peas for planting can be obtained from the local weekly markets and from the usual agricultural outlets. The ‘eat all’ types are less easily available, but can be tracked down in some supermarkets.

For a wider choice, the internet is always a good option and postage costs are quite low nowadays. When purchasing them, take care to find out about their growing habits. There are dwarf varieties, which grow about a foot high and need supporting with twiggy sticks. Ordinary bush peas grow about two feet high and need slightly sturdier supports. Climbing varieties can grow to six feet tall and need a frame built to support them. If the plants are left to trail along the ground they tend to suffer from fungal problems, insect attacks or simply rot on cold wet soil.


November is a good month to plant peas for an early crop and again from January through until March.

Growing peas

•  Sow peas on a warm day when the soil is damp, but not waterlogged. Try to choose a day when a rainy period is not looming as wet, cold soil can rot the peas.

•  Plant in a wide trench of fairly fertile soil, about five centimetres deep and seven centimetres apart from their neighbour. I find this method helps to crowd out weeds.

•  Germination is usually quite fast (five to seven days). Make sure the supports are in place for the tendrils to reach out for and cling to.

•  Pretty white flowers appear on the plant between two to four months after planting, ensure that you water if there is no rain. These flowers quickly become young pea pods.


•  For Mange tout varieties pick when the pod loses its shiny greenness and before the pod swells.

•  Sugar snap varieties can be picked at the same stage as Mange tout or left a little longer and picked when each pea is just visible in the pod. If you wish, you can just let them grow to full size and pod them.

•  Ordinary garden peas are podded when the peas are visible, but not too enlarged. The best test is to pod a couple, if they are big enough to be worthwhile and still taste sweet then they are ready.

•  A final alternative is to allow them to mature on the plant then dry them for storage.

•  Regular picking is crucial with peas as it encourages the plant to produce more flowers and peas. If you miss one pea and it reaches maturity, the plant then stops producing flowers.

If you plant peas now, they will be ready to pick in April, just as the first spring mint emerges along the riverbanks and verges.

Happy eating!

If you have any gardening nightmares or successes to share, email Paul at [email protected]