Peas are cool-season plants. They can be planted directly in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. Most peas take between 55-75 days to mature depending on type and variety. You want to harvest them before the weather gets too hot. Consistent days above 75°F (23°C) will damage them.
To ensure an abundant harvest and extend the growing season, plant peas successionally. To do this, plant a new batch every two weeks. You may consider taking a break during the hottest parts of summer, then planting again as the weather cools off in the fall.
Here is the tricky part. While peas will germinate at temperatures as low as 45°F (7°C), it can take a few weeks. In the meantime, if the soil is too wet your seeds may rot. It is a delicate process.
The ‘days to maturity’ on your seed packet does not calculate this time into their lifecycle. You can add this time to your expected harvest date and adjust accordingly. Or, there are several ways to speed germination:
- Start Indoors
- Soak Seeds
- Use Soil Thermometer
Peas do not traditionally transplant well. Starting them indoors is not recommended, but in climates with short growing seasons or exceptionally wet springs, it may be necessary. Starting peas indoors allows you to apply bottom heat through a heating pad, or control the temperature in the room. By warming them up during germination, it will greatly speed up the process.
Soak pea seeds for 12 hours before planting. This softens the outer skin and provides moisture for the growing sprout. It will cut days off of the germination time whether you plant indoors or directly sow into the garden.
Use a soil thermometer to monitor the temperature of your pea seeds. Pea seeds at 65°F (18°C) will germinate within 10 days. Cooler temperatures are fine but may take longer.
Prepare the planting bed in the fall by working the soil, topping it with compost, wood ash, and mulch. Peas don’t need a lot of fertilization, avoid nitrogen-heavy fertilizers. In the spring, remove any remaining mulch.
Plant soaked pea seeds 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart. When plants are 2-4 inches tall, thin out crowded plants and mulch around the bases of them.