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Home & garden.

16 August 2021

How to grow peas

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.
CT
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

January
February
March
April
May
June

SOW
SOW
SOW
SOW
SOW/HARVEST
July
August
September
October
November
December
HARVEST
HARVEST
HARVEST
HARVEST


Best pea varieties

Which? members can log in now to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you’re not a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Best Buy sugarsnap peas
What it looks like
Variety name
Yield from a 2m row
722g
Overall, we found the sugar snap varieties a little disappointing, but the best was this RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) variety. It gave us 722g of peas, a better crop than most, remained healthy for longer than any of the other sugar snap varieties and was mostly mildew free. The plants themselves were relatively tall, and the pods were a good shape and size, with a mix of tender juiciness and a nice snap.
Best Buy mangetout peas
What it looks like
Variety name
Yield from a 2m row

1128g
Many of our plants suffered from mildew and pea wilt, but ‘this variety resisted all these and the plants stayed healthy throughout our trial. We can see why it has an AGM. The pods were uniformly good with a good crunch, firm texture and not even a hint of bitterness. They grew quite large if left, so we harvested them before they turned tough. Remember to harvest every few days and pick them young.
What it looks like
Variety name
Yield from a 2m row
1193g
This was our best variety if you want plenty of pods, almost 2kg from 30 plants. The plants were healthy for most of the test, although they did eventually succumb to powdery mildew after almost every other variety had been affected. The large pods were sweet and crunchy if harvested before they got too large, but you need to harvest regularly to catch them at the right stage. They lost sweetness and became a little stringy if left.
What it looks like
Variety name
Yield from a 2m row
1091g
This was the tallest variety in the test. In fact, it climbed all the way up our netting and started to escape through the fruit cage. There were peas ready for picking almost every time we harvested, and the long pods were easy to spot and pick. At the end of the test, the pods were still plentiful, giving us more than 1kg in total, but starting to get tough. The pale pods were sweet, but not as tasty as this one.

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.