How to grow peas

Want to say goodbye to frozen peas? Growing your own peas is surprisingly low maintenance so they're perfect to plant with children of all ages. Take your pick from planting peas of the snow, sugar snap, and garden varieties and savour their earthy-but-sweet taste at your dinner table.

The long, green pods produce peas that are highly nutritious, making them an ingredient in many delicious recipes. To take advantage of peas' heart-friendly minerals and vitamins, read our guide to find out how simple growing peas from the seed can be.

When to plant peas

Sowing peas directly into the soil is best between March and early July. It is possible, however, to enjoy a healthy harvest before May by planting in autumn or winter. But you may face losses due to the cold so it's worth starting them off in a polytunnel.

Most varieties of peas are ready to be harvested within 60 to 70 days of being planted as they mature quickly. They're cool-weather plants and may struggle towards the end of springtime so for those sowing peas straight into the ground, simply wait until the soil has thawed and is malleable before planting.

How to plant and grow peas  

Making sure you have the perfect spot for planting peas is key to a bountiful harvest. In general, peas are happiest in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. They need less fertilising than other plants, so adding a little compost before planting should be sufficient.

Firstly, you need to decide whether you're sowing peas straight into the ground or transplanting the seedlings at a later date. Starting peas inside during the autumn can protect them from pests and harsh weather.

Sowing peas outdoors
  1. Prepare your soil well before planting by removing stones and weeds, and generously adding organic matter such as garden compost or manure.
  2. Dig a flat-bottom trench using a draw hoe roughly 22cm wide and 3cm deep.
  3. Sow the seeds in two parallel lines evenly in the trench around 10cm apart. If you're growing vining peas, make sure you choose a location near a trellis or other structure.
  4. Cover with soil and firm down lightly before watering well.
Growing peas in pots inside
  1. Use a well-draining potting mix and compost, sowing peas in smaller containers 5cm apart. Water the soil and keep moist.
  2. Transfer to any pots when they reach 5cm in length, adding trailing support such as wire or sticks to keep your pea plants upright.
  3. Once the shoots have reached 15cm, pinch off the tops to encourage branching and flowering.
  4. When you see flowers, it's nearly time to harvest! Pea pods usually form just a few days later.

How to grow peasHow to support peas when growing

When growing peas, there are some things you can do to ensure a successful harvest. Most peas, other than the dwarf variety, need support as they continue to grow upwards. If their weight is not supported and they're allowed to overgrow, there is a chance that they won't grow properly or will topple over.

Pea tendrils will climb anything less than a quarter inch thick so a trellis, bamboo sticks or wire mesh make for perfect plant support and will keep your peas growing upright. Putting stakes in the ground every few feet behind your peas and then stringing twine or cotton to the tops and middle of the stakes provides a fence-like structure for your legumes.

Peas can grow anything from 3ft to 6ft so directing the growth of the plant makes pods easier to pick and keeps them off the ground, away from pests. Pea netting and pea twigs will support smaller varieties of peas and keep them safe from garden opportunists such as squirrels and birds.

Common problems with growing peas

Though known for being low maintenance and easy to grow, there are common problems you might encounter when growing peas. Pea plants are relatively free of disease but if your crop isn't fruitful then there's a chance it's been affected by disease. Here is what you need to look out for and how to combat it.

Powdery mildew

Powdery mildew is a pathogen that lives in the soil and is mostly active during hot, humid weather. The leaves of growing peas get coated in a powdery white substance that weakens the plants and distorts, discolours, or twists leaves. Flower and pea production can decline and the plant can even die in rare cases.

If powdery mildew does appear, you can combat it by removing all affected leaves and then spraying your pea plant with diluted apple cider vinegar. If the disease, however, is advanced, you'll have to remove your plants entirely and burn them to prevent further contamination.


Aphids, or plant lice, are amongst some of the most dangerous pests you can find in the garden. They are a parasite that pierces and sucks the sap from your plants, leading to curled, yellow, or deformed leaves covered in sticky residue. They can cause leaf loss in extreme cases. A single female aphid can produce 80 eggs in 25 days and transmit pea streak and mosaic virus.

Keep these pests off your growing peas by hosing down the plants with neem oil or a mild solution of water and dish soap. Also, introducing as many ladybugs as possible to your garden can work wonders as one ladybug can eat up to 50 aphids a day.

Pea streak virus

This virus, known as PeSV, infects pea plants and causes them to develop dark-coloured streaks and lesions that extend across the entire length of the stem. Over time, the streaks grow longer and darker and cause the peas that are produced to be malformed and underdeveloped. This is a common affliction of pea plants and is passed along by aphids.

Fighting pea streak virus involves the best aphid prevention techniques, such as using reflective mulches that delay or reduce infections as they help repel the pests from your growing pea plants.  

How to harvest peas

You've sown them and supported the seedlings but when are peas ready to harvest? Peas should be ready to harvest around 60 to 70 days after sowing when the pods are full of developed peas.

Using two hands, pods should be picked from the bottom of the plant upwards as the lowest are the most mature. The usual timeframe for harvesting is between one to two weeks if all peas were planted at the same time. So, once you've begun harvesting, keep checking for new pods as more peas may be ready for a second harvest in a day or two.

Make the most of the crisp and sweet flavour of your peas by picking and using them straight away. If you want to save them, they'll keep just fine in the fridge or in the freezer.

Start growing garden peas in a polytunnel

The unpredictable nature of UK weather can provide an obstacle for any dedicated gardener and put growing pea crops at risk. It can be so disappointing when your plants don't thrive after all the effort you put in, but this can be easily combatted with the aid of a polytunnel.

Begin your polytunnel journey today and provide warmth and shelter for your pea plants by browsing the wide range available for purchase. You can check out our blog for tips on the right size of polytunnel, and for tips and tricks to develop your green fingers.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team today to find out more about polytunnels and using them for growing peas and other vegetables. Simply call us on 01282 811250 or email and we'll be happy to help!
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