I’m growing a fall crop of peas for the first time this year. Most people only grow peas in spring, but at my community garden, I’ve observed that peas do very well, if not better, when planted in late summer for a fall crop. So I thought I’d try it (and encourage you to do the same)!
Before I plant peas, I always soak them for about 8 hours in a jar of water. I find this helps the peas germinate faster because the big, fat seeds have already absorbed enough water to sprout when you plant them. Pre-soaking the seeds also allows you to remove seeds that aren’t viable, as they tend to float and viable seeds tend to sink.
Before planting I also cover my seeds in rhizobia bacteria inoculant. Rhizobia bacteria have a symbiotic relationship with peas (and other members of the legume family). The bacteria act like little nitrogen factories for the peas. They form nodes on the plants’ roots and convert nitrogen from the air into a form that the plants can use. In return, the peas provide the bacteria carbohydrates and minerals. You can buy pea inoculant from most seed companies (including Johnny’s Select Seeds and Territorial Seed Company). To apply the inoculant, simply pour some into a baggie, put in the presoaked seeds, and shake until the peas are coated. Then you’re ready to plant!
Sow peas about an inch deep in a sunny, well-drained spot in the garden. I seed my peas less than an inch apart, because I like to thin them out when they are a couple of inches tall and use the shoots in salads. Vine and bush varieties of peas grow best with support. I usually grow peas up a bamboo tripod, but Jon and I built an A-Frame trellis out of cedar 1×1 boards and hardware cloth this spring and it works great (and looks nice, too!).