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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Lawn & Garden

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Growing Peas

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Peas produce best in cool weather, so if you plant them in the spring, plant as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. Another option is to plant in the summer for fall harvest, but spring crops usually give better yields.

Peas aren't fussy about soil type. Almost any well drained soil will be suitable for peas as long as it's not extremely acid. The other site requirements are full sun and plenty of water during dry weather, especially when pea pods are forming.

To check soil to determine whether it's dry enough to work, squeeze a handful of it. If it crumbles when you open your hand, it's dry enough to spade or till. If it clumps together in a muddy ball, it's too wet.

Plant pea seeds 1 inch deep and 2 to 3 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. Peas, like other legumes, get the nitrogen they need from the atmosphere, but they will benefit from application of phosphorus and potassium. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-20-20 at the rate of 4 cups per 100 feet of row. Mix half in the soil a couple weeks before planting and sprinkle the rest alongside the rows -- not on the seeds -- after planting.

Seed catalogs offer a variety of peas -- from vining to bush types, and English peas, grown for their immature seeds, to edible-podded types. The vining varieties definitely need some sort of support to grow on though even the more compact varieties will be easier to harvest if they have some support.

Be sure pea fencing is sturdy. A flimsy fence may collapse under the weight of the vines or blow down in a spring storm.

Edible-podded peas come in two basic types. Snow peas are harvested for their crunchy pods when the peas are just beginning to form. Snap peas are picked when the pods are thick and filled with peas. Harvest garden peas when pods are firm and well filled but before they start to shrivel and change color. Old peas lose their sweetness and become starchy and tough.

Quality and flavor are best when peas are eaten or frozen as soon as possible after harvest.


This resource was added March 2008 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

PHOTO Credit: Soni Cochran, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office


Contact Information University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528 | 402-441-7180