Peas grow well on well-manured and high-fertility soils. Work in a nice 2 in. layer of compost or farmyard manure to the ground in winter or early spring to prepare the garden. Though pea plants can tolerate a temperature below freezing, they’ll have slow growth until the weather warms up.Plant your peas about 6 in. apart and firm up the soil at the plant’s base lightly with the back of your trowel.
Put in supports when the plants are about 4 in. tall. Peas can be grown without supports, but growth and yields are much better if the plants are able to climb and develop off the ground.Supports can be simple twiggy branches or bamboo pushed in alongside each plant, or more elaborate and decorative wire- or wood-frame structures and netting.Peas should retain adequate moisture. Don’t let your peas become too dry, especially when they are in full bloom and the pods are swelling.Adversely, too much water before flowering can reduce yield (all the water goes to leaf production instead of fruit).Mulch underneath your peas with straw or black plastic sheeting. It helps reduce water loss and keeps down weeds. Organic mulches also add nutrients.
Harvest of peas can begin about four weeks after flowering when the pods are swollen. Get out in the garden often! Regular picking encourages more pods to develop. Pods at the base of the plant are usually ready first. Pick them young and tender and well filled for best flavor.At the end of the harvest season, cut down your pea plants add their roots on the compost pile, or dig them back into the soil to improve the grounds fertility. Peas release nitrogen, and the garden space can be used the following year for planting brassicas such as cabbage, broccoli or kale.
Pea pods do not keep well once picked, and if not used quickly are best preserved by drying, canning or freezing within a few hours of harvest.
Shell the individual peas from their pod before cooking. Fresh peas off the bush are sweet and delicious! Go ahead and eat them raw. They can also be boiled and flavored with butter and spearmint as a side dish. You can also include them in pot pies, casseroles, salads, stir-fries and soups.
Thomas Jefferson grew more than 30 cultivars of peas on his estate. In the mid-19th century, Austrian scientist Gregor Mendel's observations of pea pods led to the principles of Mendelian genetics, the foundation of modern genetics.