How to grow peas in your backyard

How to grow peas in the backyard?

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how to grow peasIf you have ever tried freshly picked peas from the garden, you’ll never want any other anymore. Peas are a cold-season crop and taste like summer is just behind the corner.

If you want to learn how to grow peas, this is the right article for you.

What are peas?

You can grow Pisum sativum which contain two different kinds. There are the sweet peas, that have to be shelled. You can also have snowpeas that can be eaten without shelling and the pods contain small peas.

poisonous sweet peas
poisonous sweet peas

Don’t confuse the sweet peas with the Lathyrus odoratus which is poisonous but smells fabulous.

The second species is the Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon. These have edible pods where you can let the peas grow bigger inside the pods.

Of course, there’s also the pigeon pea or Cajanus cajan but that’s another story.

Read the whole article and learn how to grow peas in your backyard.

where to grow peas?

Peas need a well-draining soil with a good amount of sun to germinate and flourish.

how to grow peas in rows

how to grow peas floweringYou can sow peas 2inches apart in the row and about 1 foot between the rows. The distance between the rows is to make sure you can walk across.

It’s also possible to make up to 3 rows with a distance of about 2 inches apart and then use 1-foot distance as a walkway. Don’t do more than 3 rows this way for limiting fungal diseases.

how to grow peas with square foot gardening system

Plant 8 pea plants in 2 rows per square foot. Make sure there’s enough space around the plants to dry out during the day-time.

When to grow peas?

They like a rather warm soil although they can be started really early in spring. The saying goes that a gardener can sow peas as soon as he can put a finger in the soil. So, it’s possible to sow the first seeds up to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring.

If you want sweet and tender peas it’s best to make sure you have mature plants before the hot summer sun sets in. When temperatures get too hot the peas can become tough and lose their sweetness.

I am currently experimenting with growing peas in the autumn. We’re the end of September now and I have sown a couple of peas about a week ago to see if I can maintain them in the greenhouse and get some pods off of them.

Taking care of peas.

how to grow peas podPeas are really easy to grow and don’t need that much attention. That said, it does take some weeding as the distance between the plants is rather large for an upward growing thin plant. The distance between the plants is to ensure the air can flow through and avoid fungal diseases.

When you start sowing the peas indoors or outdoors, soak them in water for about 12 hours so they plump up. Push them about half an inch to 1 inch in the soil and cover lightly with compost. Make sure you make the hole first because they could split while pushing them in the soil. Use 2 or 3 seeds to sow in 1 hole outside because of the birds and the rodents who love peas.

Peas do appreciate a good sprinkling of wood ash when sowing or when planting out.

Peas do not transplant well, so if you want to start them indoors, try using paper pots or toilet paper rolls.

Pea-plants are nitrogen fixers, so go easy with the nitrogen. Too much nitrogen can lead to lots of greenery with very few pods.

Peas like a neutral soil, so around a PH-value of 7.

As already mentioned above, keep the plants weed free. That way, the weeds won’t compete for nutrients and the plant stays healthy.

Don’t let the plants dry out, you will have far less harvest when doing so. Try watering daily if needed.

transplanting or planting

When the seeds start to grow, there will be one long leading root growing out of the bottom of the pot. As soon as this root is visible, it’s time to transplant the plants outside or in their permanent spot.

Once the plants have established well, keep the roots covered by hilling or by mulching. By keeping the roots covered, you’ll keep the roots cooler in summer which in turn will give you a longer harvesting season.


Snow peas can be harvested when the peas are still really small.

If you grow shelled peas, you can harvest the pods as soon as the peas are big enough.

For dry peas, you have to wait until the pods have completely dried out before you harvest them. That way you can store them for a long time.

Try to harvest as often as you possibly can. This will prolong the harvesting period.

diseases and pests


growing bell peppers aphids

Aphids tend to come back time after time and every gardener has to deal with them sooner or later. While sucking out the life of your plants, aphids can spread diseases with their saliva. You can treat the infestation with a hard spray of water, with a homemade insecticidal soap mixture or with pyrethrum. In any case, you’ll have to treat several times. Keep an interval of 5 to 7 days to kill off the critters and the eggs.

Spider mites

Spider mites, from the family Tetranychidae, will weave webs, mostly on the underside of leaves. Once they take over the whole plant will be covered in web. Spider mites are no insects, they belong to the spider-like animals or arachnids.

Not all spider mites make visible webbing but there’s always a sign when they are around. In the beginning, you can see yellow dots on your leaves. If you look at the underside of the leaf, you’ll see the critters.

Spider mites are really small and difficult to see with the eye. But if you shake a leaf above a white sheet of paper, you will see some of them falling off the leaf onto the paper.

You can kill spider mites with spinosad or pyrethrum. Both will do their work. You’ll have to apply it every 3 days for about 2 weeks.


Pea Leafminer, Liriomyza huidobrensis

The pea leafminer infects a lot of plants, one of them being peas, obviously.

The larvae of this tiny fly will make unsightly burrows in the leaves of the plant. If this happens to seedlings, the plants will be killed off as the stem will start to rot. Spinosad containing insecticides will kill of this little critter. Be careful with spinosad, It kills off beneficial insects as well as pests. Try to use spinosad only in the evening when there are no bees around.

Pea weevil

The pea weevil is a bug with brown-black coloring. It overwinters in plant debris in the soil and emerges in the spring they then start laying eggs on the pea pods. When the larvae hatch, they will burrow into the pea pods and into the peas. Peas affected by this pest can no longer be used.

Pea weevil pests are small, black to brownish insects with a white zigzag running across the back. Bruchus pisorum overwinter in plant debris in the soil and then lay their eggs on the pea pods. Pea weevil larvae hatch and burrow into the pods and feed on the developing peas while adults munch on the blossoms.

Fusarium wilt

Fusarium wilt is a soil-borne fungus. Plants will start to wilt slowly and eventually die.  Use crop rotation to avoid this disease. If you have the disease, dispose of the plants in a gentle way not to spread the spores on the other plants. Burning the diseased plants is the best option.

Asocochyta blight

This blight is a combination of three fungi. The leaves will turn yellow. You’ll get black spots on the stems and the blooms will fall off. The pods can get the same black spots. There’s no treatment except for removing the diseased plants. The disease can stay in the soil during winter time. Infected peas can also be the cause of the disease so make sure you use non-contaminated seeds.

Bacterial Blight

If you start seeing dark, shiny green water spots on the leaves, it could be this disease. The spots will turn into paperlike brown translucent spots. The disease will spread over the whole plant affecting flowers and buds as well.

The disease can stay alive in the winter time. So clean up all debris from the plants and use crop rotation. Make sure not to use peas from infected plants even if they look good.

Root rot

The roots will rot and the plant will die if peas are sown in too wet, to cold soil. There are several fungi leading to this disease. It’s even possible that none of the seeds will germinate after being sown. There’s no other treatment than to remove the diseased plants as they will die eventually.

Symptoms are wilting of the plant. If you remove the plant from the soil, you’ll see brown mushy roots.

Powdery mildew

powdery mildewMildew caused by the pathogen Erysiphe pisi is a fungal disease which will destroy the plant, leaf by leaf. Bordeaux mixture can fight this disease but once a plant is infected too much, it’s better to pull the plant and burn it as the plant will be lost anyhow. Bordeaux mixture is dangerous to insects and soil life so be careful.


Now you know how to grow peas and what to look out for. Start growing them as soon as the time is right.

I don’t think I covered all the possible diseases and pests but if I come across something, I’ll amend the article. In the meanwhile, if you have a problem, make some pictures and contact me. We can work out the problem and solve it together.

So this is it for this blog post, I hope you’ve found it interesting. If so, please share with friends and other gardeners.

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Thanks for reading and see you in the next post.

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