How to raise Heirloom peas in the garden

by bestseeds on March 10, 2012

Peas from the garden are the most wonderful crop!!  It is a wonder that any of them ever make it to the kitchen when harvest comes around!  anyway, I am getting ahead of myself.  I am supposed to be telling you how to grow them, not the harvest and eat part.

Peas are an early crop.  They need full sun and seeds will germinate when the soil is only 40 degrees.   It is better if the soil is around 60 degrees. Normally, plant them 2-4 weeks before the last spring frost.  The plants can withstand down to 20 degrees.  Peas grow best in loose well-drained loam.  Bush varietes can be planted 6″ apart in rows 6″ apart in a raised bed.  In flat gardens, I usually plant 2-3 rows with 6″ between rows an then a 4 foot path.  For pole varieties, you can do the same.

It is difficult to extend the harvest with succession sowing, as the later plantings, usually catch up with the earlier ones.  You can extend the harvest by planting different varieties of heirloom peas.  Bush peas tend to mature before pole peas.  Pole peas must have supports, some up to 5 ft tall.  The bush varieties, often also benefit from supports, but they need not be as tall. Any kind of stiff wire works well, or some kind of fence or cage.  Pea tendrils are slender and can’t grow up a thick pole like a bean vine.

You may need to weed by hand when the plants are small.  They have a shallow root system.  Be sure they have enough moisture. Mulch will help conserve moisture and reduce weed pressure.

Shell peas picked in their prime are agreat treat of the spring garden.  The peas should be just about full size.  Taste them.  They should be sweet.  Snap peas are picked as soon as the peas reach full size.  The pod is round and fat.  When you taste them, they should be sweet and crisp.  Snow peas are picked after the pods have reached full size , but before the peas inside begin to swell.  They are better harvested small than large.  If you wait too long, they will not be sweet..

Peas should be used shortly after harvest.  Their sugar will begin to change to starch, so they don’t store well.  But I don’t know why you would want to store them anyway.  Eat them!  Lighty steam or stir-fry.  They also work well for freezing for the winter.

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