Peas are a cool weather crop and are planted fairly early in the spring. When we lived in East TN, I shot for a February 15th planting date. Here in WNC, I have moved it up to early March. The plants themselves can handle frost and even some snow cover.
I mentioned in my last post that I like to sprout the seeds before I plant them. I do this because depending on the current conditions of the soil- too dry, cool, hot, etc- the seeds can be a little tempermental when it comes to germinating and I don't like holes in my pea rows. I want as many plants as I can get in there! What I do is simply put a couple of inches of soil in the container- usually left over Clementine Orange boxes- water it well and place the peas in about an inch apart. You can keep them inside in a sunny spot or outside, if you don't have chickens that will gobble them up. Just be sure to keep them moist. They should sprout fairly quickly and be ready to go in the ground in a couple weeks. (I have also left them like this way too long and they still transplanted fine, it was just more of a tangled mess to take apart before planting).
They will need something to grow up as most will grow pretty high. Some varieties will tell you they don't require staking, but even those will do better with some support both for the health of the plant and ease of picking. I have used many, many things over the years as support. I have made bamboo teepees wrapped with twine, wire fencing on t-posts, purchased pea fence, left over deer/bird netting hung over posts and one year the boys collected a bunch of long sticks to stab into the ground in various places. My favorite would be the wire fencing (pictured above) it was the easiest to pick from and the plants could grow much taller, which meant I could fit more plants in a smaller space.
Around the last frost date you should start to see blossoms popping up on your plants. They start off slow but then come in fast. We usually go from picking one or 2 a night to picking basket fulls in a matter of a week. You will know they are ready to pick when you can start to feel the individual peas inside the pods. Don't wait too long to pick them, as the smaller ones also tend to be the sweetest. All of us tend to snack on peas straight from the garden and we hardly ever cook them. In fact, almost every meal in the month of May and early June will feature a handful of pea pods on the plate. Shelling isn't a big deal and is something the kids actually like to help out with. We usually just sit on the floor with a basket of peas, a compost bucket and a bowl for the shelled peas and get to work!
Once the temperatures hit the 70s the blooms will start to dwindle. And around here, by mid June the pea season is over, just in time for tomatoes and squash to start rolling in. If you haven't grow garden peas before, I highly recommend it. And even if you, or your children, don't like peas, I bet the taste of a fresh from the garden pea, with it's crunchy sweetness might change your mind!
This post has been linked to Tuesday Greens, The HomeAcre Hop, The Homestead Barn Hop, Ultimate Gardening Link Up