When to sow peas

Camilla says she likes peas ‘straight from the garden’ in 2013

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March has now arrived and Spring has sprung, meaning now is a great time to get to work on planting vegetables for the months ahead. Peas are a family favourite vegetable loved by all, but instead of reaching for a bag of frozen ones, why not grow your own? Now is the perfect time to start sowing pea seeds, so read on to find out how.

When to sow pea seeds

There are several different types of peas which you might decide to grow, but remember the optimum time to sow them will differ depending on the variety.

Generally peas can be sown from March and early July, ready to be picked and eaten in the summer.

As a general rule, first earlies are sown from March to early June, while second earlies and maincrop cultivars can be sown from March to June.

First earlies should be ready to pick in 11 to 13 weeks, while second earlies will take some 14 weeks. Maincrop cultivars take up to 16 weeks to be ready to pick.

Some examples of pea varieties include:

  • Pea ‘Avola’
  • Pea ‘Canoe’
  • Capucijner
  • Pea ‘Kelvedon Wonder’
  • Pea ‘Hurst Green Shaft’
  • Pea ‘Terrain’

How to plant pea seeds

Some choose to sow pea seeds indoors first of all, to protect the seeds and give them a head start.

To do this, the Royal Horticultural Society recommends peas are sown “along a length of guttering filled with compost”, but make sure the seeds are spaced about three inches apart.

The seeds can then be transferred outside and planted at a later date.

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Thompson & Morgan explains an optimum time to start growing pea seeds indoors or in a greenhouse is in February.

They recommend trying to sow them in upcycled guttering with drainage holes in the bottom.

When sowing seeds outside, the RHS website explains pea seeds should never be sown in cold and wet soil.

The RHS said: “If spring is slow to arrive, warm the soil with polythene or cloches before sowing, then protect seedlings with horticultural fleece.

“Still, peas generally prefer cooler weather and grow well in a cool spring.

“Make a flat-bottomed trench 5cm (2in) deep and 15cm (6in) wide – a draw hoe is ideal for this.

“Sow the seeds evenly in the trench about 7.5cm (3in) apart, cover with soil, then lightly firm.

“If you sow a second row, space it at a distance equal to the height of the crop.”

Further details on growing peas can be found on the RHS website HERE.

How to harvest peas

The optimum time to pick peas will depend on the variety. However, generally the best time to pick them is when the pods are swollen with peas.

Gardeners’ World advise you use two hands to avoid damaging the plant when harvesting the peas and pick from the bottom upwards, as the bottom pea pods will be the most mature.

Once picked, it is recommended the peas are eaten straight away to get the best flavour.

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