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Home & garden.

Updated: 29 Apr 2022

How to grow peas and best varieties

Sweet, crunchy and delicious raw or cooked, peas are a wonderful summer treat. Discover our best pea varieties and tips for how to grow them.
Ceri Thomas
Peas

Peas are easy to grow from seed for delicious summer crops. You can even eat the shoots in stir fries.


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How to grow peas: month by month

JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune

SOWSOWSOWSOWSOW/HARVEST
JulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
HARVESTHARVESTHARVESTHARVEST

Best pea varieties

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Sugarsnap peas

Variety name 
Overall ratingYield Health and vigour 
Pod taste and appearance 

USING THE TABLE Yield: weight harvested from a two-metre staggered row. OVERALL RATING Ignores price and is based on: yield 25%, health 25%, pod taste and appearance 25%, equal weighting for no of harvests, weeks of harvest and germination 25%.

Mangetout peas

Variety name 
Overall ratingYield 
Health and vigour 
Pod taste and appearance 

USING THE TABLE Yield: weight harvested from a two-metre staggered row. OVERALL RATING Ignores price and is based on: yield 25%, health 25%, pod taste and appearance 25%, equal weighting for no of harvests, weeks of harvest and germination 25%.

How we test peas

We chose 10 widely available varieties of mangetout and six sugar snaps. In April, we sowed our peas in rootrainer modules and kept them in a heated greenhouse until they germinated. We then hardened them off in the coldframe. Our trial bed was in a sunny spot with free-draining soil. In May, we erected posts two metres apart and attached pea netting to support the plants. We enclosed the bed in a fruit cage to stop the birds eating the seedlings. We planted around 30 plants of each variety, in staggered rows, 10cm apart either side of the netting, and watered them in well. We fed the peas every two weeks with a tomato feed once they started to crop and watered regularly, changing to a foliar feed later in the season. Many of the varieties developed powdery mildew, and pea wilt also affected some of them. We removed individual plants when the mildew and pea wilt started to affect growth and cropping. We harvested the peas twice a week, making sure we picked the pods before they got too large. We weighed them and recorded the health of the plants. We then tasted them raw and cooked.

When to sow 

Sow in modules or rootrainers, from March to June. Or sow outdoors, 4cm deep and 5cm apart from April onwards. For continuous crops, make several sowings, each a few weeks apart, up to June.

Sowing peas

What is the difference between mangetout and sugarsnap peas?

Mangetout is French for ‘eat all’, so you might think this could refer to both mangetout and sugar snaps. However, mangetout are flat pods of peas that have yet to develop. Confusingly they are also known as snow peas or sugar peas. Sugarsnaps, meanwhile, have thicker pods that are juicier, rounded and slightly curved.

Growing for pea shoots

If you just want to eat the crunchy leaf shoots in stir fries and salads, sow peas in module trays as early as February. Then plant outside and once they have grown about 30cm tall, pinch out the shoots – which will encourage ones lower down to grow and replace them. They can be cropped like this for several months.

Caring for your plants

Planting

Erect supports either before or soon after planting. Pea netting, with its wide mesh, can be strung between poles. Twiggy sticks also make a good support, either in a row or as a wigwam. Plant out module plants from April onwards, 10cm apart in staggered rows. 

Watering 

Water regularly, particularly once the plants start to flower. Keep the area weed free, but avoid weeding too close to the base of the roots, as this can cause damage and allow pea wilt to enter. If you have a fertile soil, you shouldn’t need to feed. On poor soil, water on a tomato feed every two weeks.

How and when to harvest

Harvest in: June to October

Hold the plant and snap off the peas. Harvest regularly to avoid the peas becoming large, tough and stringy.

Common growing problems

Mice

Mice love pea seeds, so sow them in modules under cover. 

Read more about mice.

Birds

Birds peck out seedlings and tear the leaves, so cover with netting. 

Read more about birds.

Powdery mildew

Powdery mildew affects pea plants in dry weather. There are no fungicides for use on edible crops, so water regularly and avoid growing peas during the hottest summer months. 

Read more about powdery mildew.

Pea wilt

Pea wilt, a form of fusarium, causes the plants to blanch, wilt and die back. You need to remove affected plants when the problem appears.

Pea moth

The caterpillars of this moth tunnels through pea pods.

Read more about pea moth.