12 Secrets, Tips, & Tricks for Your Best Pea Harvest

In much of the country, it’s pea-time right now! Gardeners are sowing their seeds and erecting trellises and will soon enjoy copious amounts of fresh, green garden peas. And if you’ve never grown peas, you’re in for a treat because nothing tastes as sweet as freshly picked garden peas.

This guide will give you the tips and tricks to make sure that you make the right choices so that you can enjoy your biggest and best harvest ever.

Peas Are Best Eaten Fresh

Woman holding picked peas in garden.
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Peas are best eaten fresh because their sweet flavor and tender texture are at their peak immediately after harvest. As peas age, their sugars begin to convert into starches, resulting in a loss of sweetness and a tougher, less palatable texture. Additionally, fresh peas retain their vibrant green color and nutritional value, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eating fresh peas allows you to fully savor their delicate flavor and enjoy the crisp snap of their pods, making them a delightful addition to salads, stir-fries, soups, and other dishes.

Choose the Right Variety

Woman holding basket of peas.
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Consider factors such as your climate, available space, and taste preferences when selecting pea varieties. Shelling peas like ‘Green Arrow’ and ‘Alderman’ are classic choices for their plump, sweet peas. Snap peas such as ‘Sugar Snap’ and ‘Super Sugar Snap’ offer crisp, edible pods that are perfect for snacking. Snow peas, like ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ and ‘Golden Sweet’, feature flat, tender pods ideal for stir-fries and salads.

Timing Is Key

Green peas growing on trellis.
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While peas thrive in cooler temperatures, they prefer soil temperatures between 45°F and 75°F for optimal germination and growth. In colder regions, consider using season-extending techniques such as row covers or cloches to protect young pea seedlings from frost damage.

Provide Support

Woman building teepee trellis for peas in garden.
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Pea plants use tendrils to cling to support structures as they grow. Erect trellises, teepees, or pea fences made of bamboo poles, wire mesh, or netting to provide vertical support. Alternatively, consider planting peas near existing structures like fences or arbors for natural support.

Prepare the Soil

Green peas.
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Peas thrive in loamy, well-drained soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. Conduct a soil test to determine pH and nutrient levels, and amend the soil as needed with organic matter such as compost, aged manure, or leaf mold. Avoid planting peas in heavy clay soils prone to waterlogging, as this can lead to root rot and poor growth.

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Planting Depth

Planing peas in garden.
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Plant pea seeds at the recommended depth for optimal germination. Shelling and snap peas typically require deeper planting depths of 1 to 2 inches, while snow peas can be planted slightly shallower at around 1 inch deep. Follow spacing recommendations to ensure adequate airflow and room for vine expansion as the plants mature.

Watering and Mulching

Peas.
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Peas have shallow root systems and require consistent moisture, especially during flowering and pod development. Water deeply and regularly, aiming to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Apply a layer of organic mulch such as straw, shredded leaves, or grass clippings around pea plants to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and moderate soil temperature fluctuations.

Learn More: Benefits Of Mulch In Your Garden {Ultimate Guide To Mulching}

Fertilizing

Peas growing in garden.
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Peas are nitrogen-fixing legumes that can obtain nitrogen from the atmosphere through symbiotic relationships with soil bacteria. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization, as this can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of pod production. Instead, focus on providing balanced nutrition with a light application of organic fertilizer or compost at planting time.

Pest and Disease Management

Child with peas.
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Watch for common pests, such as aphids, which can distort new growth and transmit diseases. Pea moths and pea weevils may target developing pods, reducing yields. Practice integrated pest management techniques such as handpicking pests, using insecticidal soaps, or applying organic insecticides as needed.

Pea plants should be monitored for signs of powdery mildew, a fungal disease that thrives in humid conditions. To minimize disease risk, provide adequate spacing between plants, promote good air circulation, and grow vertically.

Learn More: 20 Veggies & Fruits You Should Grow Vertically

Harvesting

Shelling green garden peas on table.
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Harvest peas promptly when the pods are plump and well-filled but before they become tough and starchy. Use two hands to gently support the vine while picking to avoid damaging the delicate plants. For snap peas and snow peas, harvest when the pods are still flat, and the peas inside are just beginning to swell. Store harvested peas in the refrigerator and use them immediately for the best flavor and texture.

Properly Store Your Peas After Harvest

Shelling green peas.
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To properly store peas for long-term storage in the freezer, follow these steps:

  1. Blanching: Blanching helps preserve peas’ color, texture, and flavor by deactivating enzymes that cause deterioration. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare an ice bath (a bowl of ice water) nearby. Once the water is boiling, add the peas in small batches and blanch them for about 1-2 minutes. Remove the peas with a slotted spoon and immediately transfer them to the ice bath to cool rapidly and stop the cooking process.
  2. Drain and Dry: Once the peas are cool, drain them thoroughly and pat them dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. This helps prevent the formation of ice crystals during freezing, which can lead to freezer burn.

Transfer the blanched and dried peas to airtight freezer-safe containers or resealable freezer bags. Leave some space at the top of the container or bag to allow for expansion during freezing. Label the containers with the date of freezing for easy identification.

Place the containers or bags of peas in the freezer, ensuring they are arranged in a single layer to allow for even freezing. Once frozen solid, you can stack the containers or bags to save space.

Frozen peas can typically be stored in the freezer for up to 6-12 months without significant loss of quality.

Peas can also be freeze-dried and dehydrated or pressure canned.

Saving Seeds

Woman holding picked peas in garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

To save pea seeds for future plantings, allow a few pods to mature and dry on the vine towards the end of the growing season. Harvest the dried pods when they turn brown and brittle, then shell the peas and store them in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.

Peas are an easy, beginner-friendly crop that’s hard to mess up, but you still need to follow some best practices for success.

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