> When Cool

Peas are cool weather plants, hardy down to 20 degrees (28 degrees F when flowering). They prefer mild temperatures (55 to 75 degrees F) and don't usually set pods above 80 degrees F. In areas with hot summers they are grown as a spring or fall crop (fall planting presents its own problems however).

It is important to plant your peas early, so that they have enough time to mature before the hot weather sets in. Normally the first peas are planted 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date.

> When outdoor temp: 45°F to 75°F, optimal temp 60°F to 65°F
> When min soil temp: 45°F

Pea seeds will germinate over a wide temperature range, but do so much faster in warm soil. At 40˚F they may take over a month to germinate (if they don’t rot or get eaten in the meantime). At 70˚F they may take only a week.

These large nutritious seeds are vulnerable once planted, so you don't want them sitting in the soil for too long. For this reason it's best to wait until the soil is at least 45 degrees and preferably 60 degrees. 

Seed Depth

1.0"-2.0"

Sow the seed 1" deep in cold soil, 2" deep in warm soil (where there is more moisture).

Spacing

1.0"-2.0", 12 plants per sq ft

Intensive: Pole varieties are commonly planted in rows because it is easier to support them. They are best planted in double offset rows, with 1 to 2" between the plants and 6" between the rows. You can get two of these double rows in a 5-foot wide bed (space them 30" apart).

Spring Crop

2-4 weeks before LFD

Peas can be started quite early if the soil is warm enough for good germination (at least 40˚ F though preferably 60˚ F). If it is too cold they will just sit and rot (or be eaten by rodents or birds). You can speed up the warming of the soil with plastic mulch, or cloches, before planting.

It is important to plant your peas early, so that they have enough time to mature before hot weather sets in. Normally the first Peas are planted 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date.

You can speed up germination somewhat by pre-soaking the seeds overnight before sowing. The best way to do this is to put them between moist paper towels. Soaking them in a bowl of water can cause them to absorb water too rapidly and may actually injure them.

You can also pre-germinate the seeds, to improve emergence in cold soils. Sprout the seeds on paper towels in a warm place and plant them out as soon as the roots appear (don’t wait too long).

Inoculation: The nitrogen fixing bacteria that live in Pea roots can survive in the soil for 3 to 5 years. If you haven’t grown Peas within that time, you should inoculate your seeds with a commercial inoculant. This can make a big difference to the amount of nitrogen that is fixed. This in turn may increase the yield of pods by as much as 75%.

Planting:

1. Inoculate peas.

2. Lay out the seeds 6" apart on the surface at the required spacing.

3. When you are happy with the arrangement, push the seeds down to the proper depth with your finger.

4. In early spring, when the soil is cold, plant your peas 1˝ deep.

Summer Crop

4-18 weeks after LFD

In cool climates you can grow peas right through the summer.

1. Inoculate peas

2. Lay out the seeds 6" apart on the surface at the required spacing.

3. When you are happy with the spacing, just push the seeds down to the proper depth with your finger.

4. In warm soil you can plant them 2˝ deep (where it is cooler and more evenly moist).

It is a good idea to erect your supporting structure before (or immediately after) you plant the seed, so you don’t disturb the young plants later.

Inoculation: The nitrogen fixing bacteria that live in Pea roots can survive in the soil for 3 to 5 years. If you haven’t grown Peas within that time, you should inoculate your seeds with a commercial inoculant. This can make a big difference to the amount of nitrogen that is fixed. This in turn may increase the yield of pods by as much as 75%.

Fall Crop

8-12 weeks before FFD

Plant a fall crop 8 to 12 weeks before the first fall frost, so they mature in cool weather. The seed may also be sown in autumn for an early spring crop, though it should be protected with mulch over the winter.

1. Inoculate peas

2. Lay out the seeds 6" apart on the surface at the required spacing.

3. When you are happy with the spacing, just push the seeds down to the proper depth with your finger.

4. In warm soil you can plant them 2˝ deep (where it is cooler and more evenly moist).

It is a good idea to erect your supporting structure immediately after planting your seed (or even before), so you don’t disturb the young plants later.

Inoculation: The nitrogen fixing bacteria that live in Pea roots can survive in the soil for 3 to 5 years. If you haven’t grown Peas within that time, you should inoculate your seeds with a commercial inoculant. This can make a big difference to the amount of nitrogen that is fixed. This in turn may increase the yield of pods by as much as 75%.

Support

At planting

It is a good idea to erect your supporting structure before you plant your seed, so you don't disturb the young plants later. Whatever support you decide upon, it must be sufficiently tall and strong to support the plants. The tangled full size vines and their load of peas can weigh quite a lot (especially when wet or when the wind is blowing).

Pole peas climb by means of slender tendrils and can't grow up thick poles. This means they need a different kind of support from beans. A pea tendril will take about an hour to curl around a slender twig. Chicken wire (or any stiff wire) also works well, either as a fence or a cage of some kind. You can also use a trellis, which can later be used for cucumbers or melons. If you are creative, you can rig up something from poles and string or netting.

Large tomato cages (which aren't needed so early in the season) can work well with Bush Peas.

In England, peas were traditionally supported on stems from hazel shrubs, but any brushwood will do (fruit tree prunings are good). They were trimmed to a flat two dimensional plane and the butt ends were pushed firmly into the ground.