02 February 2005
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
If you are itching to get started on your vegetable garden this year it is time to order your peas. Fresh peas from the home garden can add variety and nutrition to your meals and they are something you can start working on soon. These vegetables can be prepared direct from the garden, as well as frozen, canned or dried for later use.
Types of Peas
Peas are grown for either their edible seeds or pods. Garden or English peas, grown for their seeds, are harvested as soon as the pods are well-filled but the seeds are still tender and sweet. When small and tender, these peas can be eaten raw in salads. For cooking, shell them just before using and cook immediately. Snow peas or sugar peas have edible flat pods and very small seeds. They should be picked when very young, just as the seeds start to form. If not picked at this stage, they can be shelled and eaten as garden peas, but are starchier and not as sweet.
Sugar snap peas are also an edible pod pea but have larger and sweeter seeds and a thicker pod. They are grown to full size and then eaten like snap beans.
Sugar snap peas grow on tall vines that require the support of a trellis. Garden peas and snow peas have both climbing and low-growing varieties.
Some suggested garden pea cultivars are:
Knight (56) (early) tolerates heat, stringless! Sugar Snow (70) (snap) tolerant of downy mildew and fusarium wilt Wando (68) edible pod, flat, snow pea Green Arrow (70) Dwarf Gray Sugar (68)
Numbers in parentheses indicate time, in days, until the beginning of the harvest period.
Peas are a cool-season crop and may be planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Sow seeds about one inch deep and two inches apart in the row. Low-growing varieties can be grown in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Climbers need three feet between rows, or plant a double row six inches apart on either side of trellis. Peas can be grown in a variety of soils, but good drainage is essential. Peas require a pH of 6.0 to 6.7.
Peas and beans are members of the legume family. Legumes produce their own nitrogen through nitrogen fixing bacteria, Rhizobium, found on the plant roots. These crops require very little fertilizer in most gardens. For a new garden, 1-1/2 pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet is adequate. For a well-established and tended garden, 1/2 pound of 10-10-10 is more than enough.
Specific application rates are best determined using the results of a soil test. Contact your local County Extension office for information on soil testing. Fertilizer may either be broadcast and worked into the soil before planting time or banded two inches to the side and three inches below the seed at the time of planting. A later side dressing, after pods begin to form, may be necessary if plants appear yellowish or are not growing well.
Weed control is essential especially in the first six weeks after planting. Shallow cultivation and hand-pulling are the preferred methods. The soil should be kept evenly moist. Overhead watering should be done early in the day to reduce the incidence of leaf diseases that occur when the leaves remain wet overnight. An organic mulch about two inches deep will conserve soil moisture and reduce weed problems.
Pea diseases include powdery mildew, root rot and wilt. If possible, rotate the location of peas in the garden to reduce the incidence of soil-borne diseases that can build up over time.
Insect pests of peas include aphids, Mexican bean beetles, leafhoppers, seed corn maggots and mites. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for identification and control recommendations.
Birds also love peas because the pea crop is one of the earliest available to feed their young. The best control against birds is netting.
Harvest and Handling
Once peas begin to reach the appropriate stage for picking, harvesting will continue on a daily basis for several days or even weeks with succession planting. Peas are best used as soon as possible after harvest, but may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days if cooled immediately. The same applies for freezing and canning. For best quality, freezing and canning should be done within a few hours after picking.
For more information about landscape topics contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 872-4580, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.