Germinating peas is tricky. They can have low germination rates if not in the right conditions. Seeds put into the spring ground may rot before getting a chance to actually grow. There are a few tricks to speeding up pea germination and making sure that your efforts in the garden aren't wasted.
Soaking peas prior to planting is a common gardening practice. This softens the outer layers of the dry seed and provides necessary moisture. Seeds that are soaked will germinate twice as fast as seed placed directly into soil.
Put them in a glass or shallow dish submerged in water for 24 hours before planting. Whether they are going into a greenhouse medium or an outdoor planting bed, it will speed things up. Avoid chlorinated city waters. Use distilled water, well water, or spring water. Seeds that do not swell can be discarded.
Rhizobial bacterial inoculant is available at garden supply stores. This is a bacteria that has a relationship with the roots of plants in the legume family. This bacteria helps the plant absorb nitrogen from the air and store it in nodules at the roots. You can add this to your soaking water to improve overall plant health and nitrogen fixation.
Paper Towel Method
Another quick germination method is to place pea seeds between two moist paper towels inside of a sealable plastic bag. You can do this after you soak them, or in place of soaking.
Place them somewhere warm like on top of the fridge, dryer, or somewhere in the kitchen that stays warm. Check on them each day until you can see a sprout emerging from the cracked pea. Once they sprout place them into soil either in a greenhouse or garden.
This method is excellent for peas in particular. Peas like germination temperatures of around 70°F (21°C), but they also need to be planted early in the season. Germinate them in the warm house and then move them gradually into cooler growing conditions. Here is a quick germination checklist for pea seeds:
- Soak for 24 Hours With Optional Beneficial Bacteria
- Ideal Germination Temperature Between 60-70°F (15-21°C)
- Wet Paper Towels Somewhere Warm
Days to Maturity
Each seed packet has a ‘days to maturity’ section on it. It lists how long the plant will take if directly down into the ground or started according to the packet directions. It doesn’t take into account the soil temperature at the time of germination.
If your soil is 40°F (4°C), peas will sprout but it could take weeks. Pea seeds at 60°F (15°C) will only take a week to sprout. Slow germination could take its toll on your garden succession plan, or even push back harvest enough that the summer heat damages plants.