Garden Peas come in two varieties; shelling and mangetout, sometimes referred to as snap peas.

Shelling peas mature at different times, with early varieties taking around 12 weeks to mature, second earlies 14 weeks, and maincrop varieties 16 weeks.

Shelling pea varieties have either smooth or wrinkled seeds.

The smooth-seeded varieties tend to have more starch in them than the wrinkled-seeded varieties, and are generally hardier than wrinkled seed types, making them useful for autumn or early spring sowings.

Wrinkled-seeded varieties are generally sweeter and usually preferred for home use.

Mangetout / Snap peas have been developed from garden peas to have low-fibre pods that can be snapped and eaten along with the immature peas inside.


Week 12: Peas need fertile moisture retentive soil and a sunny aspect to succeed.

Prepare trenches for maincrop peas if not done previously.

Rake bed over thoroughly in each direction, but don't do this if the surface sticky.

Week 16: If ground conditions are not suitable for sowing outdoors, sow seed in cell trays, three or four seeds per cell, and grow on in a greenhouse or cold frame.

Seeds Sown

Seeds Germinated

Ready for Planting Out

Planted Out

Peas sown in cold, wet ground will rot off, so do not be tempted to sow outdoors if ground conditions are not suitable.

To speed up soil warming one can cover the soil with polythene, fleece or cloches this may allow a sowing to be made a couple of weeks earlier.

Plant out the plugs of seedlings when they are 25mm (1") high, circa Week 19> and cover with fleece to protect them from late frosts and birds.

Week 21: If ground conditions allow, draw out a 50mm (2”) deep vee shaped drill, and sow the seed, roughly 50mm (2”) apart.

For double or triple rows, take out a flat-bottomed trench 200mm (6”) wide, 50mm (2") deep, and scatter seeds roughly 50mm (2") apart in the trench.

Germination should take eight to ten to fourteen days.

Week 23: As pea seedlings emerge protect them from birds, either by covering them with wire-mesh tunnels, ensuring that both ends are blocked off, or nets.

Most varieties need support from an early stage, especially tall varieties, once plants begin to develop tendrils, provide them with some form of support.

Pea sticks inserted to overlap along either side of the rows is the traditional method, wire mesh secured to canes or stakes is an alternative method, or use proprietary bean/pea plastic netting for particularly tall varieties.

Week 24: Make another sowing of maincrop peas.

Week 28: As peas fill out pick them regularly otherwise they will become quite hard.

Pick them before the start to turn yellow or shrivel.

If in doubt as to when to harvest, pick them sooner than later.

Peas begin to lose their flavour soon after harvesting, so eat or freeze them as soon as possible.

Now is a suitable time to collect seed for next year.

Pick a few pods and either place them to dry in a shaded airy place, or leave them to dry on the plant/s if the ground is not required straight away for other crops.

Week 30: After harvesting, remove haulms (tops) by cutting them down to ground level, and leaving the root system in place.

The roots will add nitrogen to the ground for the benefit of other crops.

Week 40: Prepare trenches for next season’s maincrop peas.

Take out a trench 300mm (12") wide, and 600mm (24") deep, placing the bottom layer on one side of the trench and the topsoil on the other.

Fork soil at the bottom 150mm (6") deep and spread a layer of well rotted manure or garden compost.

Break up subsoil as you return it, mixing with it, a bucketful of farmyard manure to each metre (3ft) run and 60gms(2oz) of bonemeal.

Similarly when returning top soil, mix in well rotted manure, and add 30gms (1oz) of bonemeal per metre (yard) run.

Week 47: In milder areas, a sowing of round-seeded pea varieties can be made in fertile, deeply-dug and well-drained ground.

Depending on winter weather, autumn-sown peas will give a crop in late spring or early summer.

Ground previously used for potatoes is ideal for making a sowing of early peas.

Break up the soil, rake in general fertiliser, and if possible cover with a cloche to warm the soil.

In exposed gardens, it is beneficial to protect crop with cloches.

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