Growing English Peas (P. sativum)

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on November 19, 2010

English Peas (P. sativum) encompass edible pod peas, snow peas, and sugar peas.  In my area of Texas, we plant peas in February with the other cold weather crops.  They whither in the heat.  Once they start producing, if you pick them every day, you can get two or even three weeks of peas from them, depending on the weather.  If it is a cool spring, you might get a solid month of production.

English peas are not really English.  They come from Asia, the Middle East, and a few areas in Ethiopia.  They spread with trade and invasion to Europe and then were brought to North America by settlers.  Southerners such as myself call them English peas to distinguish them from Black-Eyed Peas.  However, in other areas they are simply referred to as peas.

These peas can be eaten immediately upon picking or dried.  Dried peas are often split and used in soup.  I do not generally do that, but eat mine immediately.  Poor impulse control, I guess.

Once you purchase your seeds, plant them in the full sun according to the directions on the package.  It is helpful to dust the peas with inoculate, which you can get at the same place you get your seeds.  This helps the peas fix nitrogen and grown better.  A happy side effect is that peas improve the soil.  Peas do not do well in partial shade — full sun is important.

Watering is important, too.  You want to keep the soil moist but not soggy.  Inadequate water will result in few peas and unhealthy plants.  Too wet, and the roots will rot.

Since the plants fix nitrogen, you do not have to fertilize them.  They do just fine on their own.  In fact, they are a good crop to grow where heavy feeders such as corn or cotton grew the year before as they help the soil recover.

Peas come in bush and vine varieties.  The bush varieties do not need support but take more room in the garden.  The vine variety needs support, but can be trained to grow up and occupy relatively little space in your garden.  Which one you plant has more to do with your space requirements and preferences than anything about the pea.

After the peas are done producing, you can till them under and plant one of the warm weather crops in that spot.  The pea plants act as green manure and add nutrients to the soil for your next crop.

Good gardening, and if you have any questions, please ask.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Brikiatis February 19, 2011 at 8:19 am

Can you share what varieties of peas that you grow? Which do best and which taste best? I was planning to grow green arrow peas, but still could try something else.
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Stephanie Suesan Smith February 20, 2011 at 5:43 am

I grow Oregon Sugar Pod or Early Snap. However, I live in 7b/8a zone, so your best variety may vary. Your County Extension Agent should have a list of the best varieties to grow in your county. The best varieties for most vegetables in Texas are listed on the vegetable variety selector and may prove helpful.


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