There is nothing quite like the taste of freshly picked peas especially in a home grown salad. The moment the peas is picked its natural sugars start to break down into starch, which affects the flavour. With careful planning and by using a range of varieties, peas can be harvested from late spring until late Autumn.
Where to grow
Grow peas in fertile moisture retentive soil. Dig to a good depth in the Autumn and incorporate plenty of well rotted manure or garden compost. Avoid areas that may become waterlogged – the plants will rot at the base if too wet.
As with most crops, peas do best in a sunny open spot, but they will tolerate light shade.
Varieties such as ‘Fetham First’, categorised as first earlies, are smooth skinned, while second earlies and main crop, such as ‘Onward’ and ‘Alderman’ have wrinkled skin. First earlies can be sown outside in mid to late Autumn and overwintered under cloches to protect against frost.
Peas do really well when started in Rootrainers before being transplanted outside. This gives them a super strong root system which allows the plants to produce a bigger crop of delicious peas.
Sow main crop varieties at regular intervals from early spring to mid Summer and will not need protection unless there is a period of prolonged frost.
Sow double rows in flat bottomed trenches 23 cm wide and 5 cm deep with 50cm between trenches.
Or for a 'no dig' solution use a planter specifically designed for peas - the Haxnicks Pea & Bean Planter. These planters are reinforced with rigid tubes and have 6 cane pockets to hold canes in place without disturbing the soil. They are ideal for those without space in their garden who still want to grow their own veg..
Immediately after sowing protect the crop from birds by covering with wire netting or twiggy branches over canes or using the Haxnicks Birdscare.
Provide support using pea sticks or netting when the crop reaches around 8cm high. For tall varieties place the supports on either side of the growing stems. Water regularly during dry spells especially when the plants are in flower. Mulching with garden compost will help with moisture retention.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvest when the pods are plump but not fully grown, picking from the bottom of the plant and working your way up. Keep picking to encourage production of more pods.
If you are growing Mange Tout or Sugar Snap varieties pick on the early side to ensure the pods have not become tough.
Peas are best eaten straight away, but will also freeze well in container or can be left to dry in their pods – wait until you can hear them rattle – and stored in an airtight container to use in stews or soups.
Pest and diseases
Peas are prone to a number of pests and diseases. Pigeons and small birds can devastate young crops – Micromesh netting is the best protection. Mildew can also be a problem. Pea and Bean weevil can cause stunting of plant growth. The crop may come under attack from Pea Thrips too in hot sunny weather. Silvery patches are seen on the pods and leaves which will affect the yield. Pea moth can also be a problem. The adults lay their eggs when the peas are in flower – sow early or late to avoid the moth’s flying period.