Garden Peas (Pisum sativum)
It can be easy to forget that the sweet crunchy peas we enjoy on warm summer days are actually a cool season crop. This means they grow best at temperatures of 50 to 60ºF and should be planted early enough that they have a chance to mature before temperatures are consistently above 85ºF. Luckily for Pacific Northwest peas it is rare that temperatures around here remain consistently above 85ºF. Even at 75ºF pea yields will drop rapidly and pod fiber and seed starch content will increase leaving you with pithy peas encased in stringy pods. We started our first pea transplants in a heated greenhouse on February 21st and will continue to start peas in our greenhouse through mid-March but by mid-March it is also safe to direct seed peas right into your garden beds. If in doubt about whether or not you should direct seed into your garden beds measure the soil temperature, if it is between 45-75ºF you should be good to go.
If you opt to start your peas indoors harden them off before transplanting into the ground. To do this, bring the plants outside for a week or two before transplanting. This will help the transplants adapt to the cooler temperatures of the outdoor air and soil.
Garden peas seed, as with other legume seed such as beans, will germinate better and produce higher yields if planted with legume inoculant. Legume inoculants introduce specific microorganisms to the soil that helps fix nitrogen and support the formation of the plants first leaves as it germinates. We have had success by simply sprinkling inoculant directly onto a seed before covering it with dirt when starting transplants or direct seeding.
Peas are vining annual and unless they are a “determinate” variety, they grow to be over 6 feet tall. Make sure you plant them in a spot in your garden where they won’t shade out other crops as the season continues!