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Planting Peas in Fall

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!).


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21 Responses to “Planting Peas in Fall”

  1. 1
    Lauren Says:

    What variety are you using that gives you such pretty purple flowers? I have only ever had white pea flowers …

    Nice-looking trellis. Stealing your idea for next year! Is it hinged at the top?

  2. 2
    Willi Says:

    A fellow gardener at my P-Patch grew these snow peas in the spring. I believe that the variety is ‘Golden Sweet’ and that she got them from Baker Creek Seed Company (www.rareseeds.com). They are very tasty and incredibly ornamental. The trellis is hinged at the top and we secured it by tying each corner to wooden stakes.

  3. 3
    laura Says:

    That is really interesting about the bacteria. Thanks for the info, something I will try in the future and another reason I enjoy reading your blog!

  4. 4
    Dave Smith Says:

    Hi Willi,
    I planted potatoes and tomatoes in a mulch garden this year and plan to expand it for fall. My inspiration is the Ruth Stout method of heavy mulching. However, a neighbor here in Northern California said she tried it for 2 years and it didn’t work because we don’t get cold enough in the winter to kill off the detrimental bugs that she said ruined her garden. However, Stout says you have to mulch at least 3 years to get a good healthy soil. Any advice on mulch gardening? Thanks. Dave Smith

  5. 5
    Willi Says:

    Growing potatoes in leaf mulch certainly has it advantages. A) By using mulch to hill up the potatoes, you don’t disturb the soil and the complex web of life that exists in the soil. B) It’s easier to harvest the potatoes, just pull back the mulch, and voila! you’ve got potatoes C) you can leave the mulch in place after harvesting and it will break down, adding organic matter back to the soil. Perhaps your friend had preexisting insect problems? As for tomatoes, my colleague Pam Ruch at Organic Gardening, endorses growing a winter cover crop (like rye or oats), mowing it down in spring and then planting directly into the cover crop “mulch”. If you’re looking for Ruth Stout’s book,there is a used one available online at Powells.

  6. 6
    A Tour of My Garden | DigginFood Says:

    [...] chance I get, I pop outside and examine my rows of fall peas (they’ve germinated!), pop a cherry tomato in my mouth (they are finally ripening), and make a [...]

  7. 7
    A Nice Surprise | DigginFood Says:

    [...] I had grand plans for a winter vegetable garden. I dug a bit of compost into the soil and planted little seedlings of lettuce, arugula, chard, and radicchio. I sowed baby greens, radishes, and beets. I even tried my hand at growing fall peas. [...]

  8. 8
    Bob Says:

    What are the basic dimensions of the A frame?

    Did you find that it was tall enough or did the peas do so well they grew to the top and needed more height?

    I assume you planted the peas on the outside and let them crawl up. Did you pant anything in the middle?

  9. 9
    Willi Says:

    Bob–

    Here is a link with step-by-step directions on how to build this A-Frame:
    http://www.ehow.com/how_2224037_build-aframe-trellis.html

    I planted arugula in the middle and it did great!

  10. 10
    Sarah Says:

    Willi-

    Is this the right time to plant peas for fall, then? Am I too late? Too early?

  11. 11
    Willi Says:

    Sarah–You want your peas to mature before the first hard frosts in your area. In the PNW, now is a great time to plant because the peas will germinate and grow quickly in the warm weather, but the pods won’t begin to set until the weather cools down in September. Good luck!

  12. 12
    Sustainable Eats Says:

    Willi,
    Just wanted to say I planted some peas last fall as a cover crop and we have pods on them now. I’m in Seattle as well so the seeds survived the cold snap in Dec and just hung out until the weather warmed up. I have those same purple ones but can’t remember where I got the seeds from.
    .-= Sustainable Eats´s last blog ..Dark Days Week 20 =-.

  13. 13
    Uwe Says:

    (“By using mulch to hill up the potatoes, you don’t disturb the soil and the complex web of life that exists in the soil.”)
    Every time i start a new planting i put 5 inches of mushroom soil on top and toil it into the ground, when i weed than i loosen the soil so that the water can go easier into the ground.

  14. 14
    Margo Says:

    Hi, I live outside Philadelphia and would like to know when I should plant peas for a fall harvest. Can you help? Thanks! Margo

  15. 15
    Willi Says:

    Margo–hi! I would try starting seeds in a early August and then transplanting when they are about 2 inches tall (probably about 3 weeks later). I just start mine out doors in either a little wooden flat or in newspaper pots. I keep them in a spot that gets morning light and afternoon shade. You just have to make sure they don’t dry out. I find that starting them in pots and then transplanting works best in fall. Since it is pretty warm in PA, you might want to cover the area where you plant to transplant with straw a couple of weeks prior to transplanting. That will help cool down the soil. Then keep the straw around the peas after you plant. Good luck!
    Willi´s last [type] ..Pea Shoot Salad Video

  16. 16
    Margo Says:

    Thanks Willi, I will try this.

  17. 17
    Annie Says:

    Territorial Seed Catalog says you can plant peas in the fall to overwinter and harvest in the spring. Have you ever tried that?

  18. 18
    Sustainable Eats Says:

    Annie I do that – it works great in the PNW. You will have the earliest peas around.
    Sustainable Eats´s last [type] ..July UFH Challenge – Winter Gardening and Seed Saving

  19. 19
    joanna Says:

    do they make it in fall ? I want to try this yeat .

  20. 20
    lucas mcmillan Says:

    How many do you plant around the bamboo tripod?

    When can they be planted in southern Indiana?

  21. 21
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