Tips & Techniques for Growing Peas
Growing Green Peas
Varieties of Peas
Green peas are the most common type of peas and are sometime referred to as either English Peas or simply peas since many people are not familiar with other types.  Most varieties are for shelling and eating but some exist that can be eaten, pods and all.  The shelling varieties vary a lot in both the size of the vines and the pea pods.  Peas with edible pods are sweet and tender.  Some varieties bear for only two or three weeks while others have a much longer season.  In addition, the time required to produce peas will vary depending upon the variety grown.  Two of my favorites are the Green Arrow and the Maestro varieties which produce large pods over a long period.  Some varieties are tolerant of or resistant to powdery mildew which is a disease that often kills plants prematurely.
Preparing the Soil
Preparing the soil to plant peas is simple.   You just need to till the garden and mark off rows.  A string with a stick tied to each end can be used for creating straight rows.  Use the sticks to measure the location of the next row.  It will make tilling and weeding easier, if you make the middles slightly wider than your tiller.  Using a hoe, make a straight shallow trench beneath the string.  Once the rows have been marked off, you will be able to plant the pea seed directly in the trench without any additional preparation.  Select a location for the pea rows where you can have a trellis for the pea vines to climb to keep them off the ground.
Planting Green Peas
It is best to plant pea seeds in rows side-by-side to improve pollination.  It is best not to plant them next to onions since peas and onions are not compatible.  Green peas can be grown with or without a trellis. However, a trellis can increase and extend the pea production period.  Keeping the peas off the ground reduces fungus infection and rodent damage.  A large variety of seeds are available from the various seed companies.  Seeds can be sowed in a shallow trench so the plants will be about an inch apart.  Cover the seeds with about a half inch to an inch of dirt.  A garden soil inoculant, containing a nitrogen fixing bacteria, can be sprinkled in the trench before planting to increase the harvest but is generally not essential.  As the pea vines grow, they will climb onto anything near them.
Weeding & Plant Maintenance
If you made your middles slightly wider than your tiller, you only have to plow down each middle once every time you till and leave only weeds that come up in the actual row.  Since peas are planted close together you will have to pull most of the weeds that are in the rows.  You should till and hoe about three times before the plants get large and start producing.  A trellis can be made using netting or string with a few stakes.  You may need to hand start some of the pea vines onto the trellis.  Once they get attached, they should continue climbing without further assistance.  If water is available, you may want to water, if it doesn’t rain for a week or two.   The plants grow fast but to do so they need adequate moisture.
Controlling Diseases and Insects
Peas can usually be grown without too many problems with diseases. The most common disease affecting peas is powdery mildew, a white powdery fungus that develops on the leaves and stems. If untreated, it will cut the production period short by killing the plants.  Some control measures include planting resistant varieties, crop rotation, use of a trellis to keep the plants off the ground and use of sprinklers to wash the fungus off the plants.  Severely infected plants may require the use of fungicides.  Always read and follow the directions on the containers when applying chemicals on garden plants.

Depending on the existence of wildlife near your garden, deer and groundhogs can be a problem.  Once they find your peas they can deplete them in little time.  There are several methods used to repel them but I haven’t found any to work well short of a fence.  I bought a heavy duty plastic mesh deer fense from Gardener's Supply and installed it around most of my garden.  It is quite effective, especially for the larger animals, and can be rolled up and stored over the winter.  For specific details on controlling diseases and pests, click on the "Gardening Resources" tab and go to the Sources of Information on Vegetable Garden Diseases and Pests.

Once the first pods fill out, you will need to pick peas about every two or three days. Picking them is easier, if you selected a variety with long vines and grew them on a trellis.  Removing the mature peas, causes the plants to produce more as they continue to try to make seed.  Peas are better when the pods are barely filled out.  If you leave the pods on the vines too long, the peas get starchy and are not as tender and favorable.  Of course, snap or snow peas should be picked while the pods are small, tender and sweet.  Peas are good frozen or canned.