Growing peas in containers is an excellent choice since peas take well to the concept. This article will cover the entire process from start to finish, from deciding on the type of peas you want to grow down to the nitty-gritty aspects of preventing disease and infestation.
Along the way, we will discuss the ideal growing conditions, the best planting seasons, and even the container choices. So without further ado, let’s dive right in!
- Essential Steps to Grow Healthy Peas in Your Garden
- 1. Learn the Main Types of Peas and Their Characteristics
- 2. Choose Good Varieties for Containers
- 3. Learn the Ideal Planting Season
- 4. Choose the Ideal Planting Location
- 5. Set up the Containers
- 6. Consider the Growing Conditions
- 7. Ensure Adequate Pea Plant Care and Fertilization
- 8. Offer Protection Against Wildlife and Pests
- 9. Ensure Protection Against Common Diseases
- 10. Harvest the Pea Pods
Essential Steps to Grow Healthy Peas in Your Garden
The low-maintenance nature and edibility of pea plants with sizable and sustainable yields make them an attractive choice for many gardeners. For healthy plant growth and proper seed germination, we have divided the process into ten actionable steps that you could easily follow.
1. Learn the Main Types of Peas and Their Characteristics
When it comes to pea plants, you have three main types to consider: garden peas (or English peas), snow peas, and sugar snap or just snap peas (a cross between garden and snow peas). All the common garden varieties fall under one of these types. We will look at the minor differences between them, but they generally have similar growth requirements, so it is up to you and your personal preferences.
Of the three types, only the garden green peas have inedible pods, meaning you need to shell them first and either discard the shells or use them as compost. This property leads to their other name, “shelling peas.”
The other two (snow and snap peas) have edible pods, with the snow types usually eaten raw or added to different culinary dishes (salads and stir-fried dishes in particular). You might find the two lumped together and called “edible-podded peas.”
Apart from pod edibility, they have subtle differences in taste: garden peas are sweet and plump with firm round pods, whereas snow peas are small, tender, and only slightly sweet with almost flat pods. Sugar snap peas are the sweetest and most flavorful of the bunch, with rounder pods than snow peas.
2. Choose Good Varieties for Containers
|Common garden peas||
|Common snow peas||
|Common snap peas||
Tom thumb peas are the most popular garden peas for indoor containers with a maximum height of 8–9 inches. Other popular garden pea varieties include Wando, Alaska, Little Marvel, Lincoln, and Kelvedon Wonder, each with its quirks like higher yields, better productivity in warmer weather, etc.
In the category of snow peas, Oregon Sugar Pod, De Grace, and Green Beauty are famous varieties. However, Green Beauty tends to grow quite high, so it is not suitable for indoor planting, but it can still grow in a container with the help of supporting structures and produces up to 8-inch-long pods with a high yield.
Finally, for snap peas, Sugar Ann is the quickest to yield in just 52 days without growing too tall or needing a support structure. There are several others, like the Amish Snap and Sugar Snap, but most are tall climbers at around 4–6 feet tall, which is a problem for indoor planting and small gardens, making Sugar Ann the easiest one to grow.
3. Learn the Ideal Planting Season
|Consider the Hardiness Zones||
|Benefits of indoor planting||
|Important growth factors||
If the winters in your area are not too harsh, planting peas a couple of weeks before the last frost in your area offers the best results. You can also play it safe and plant in the early spring if you live in colder regions. Doing so ensures they receive the optimal temperature during the early growth stage, leading to a high-quality and plentiful yield at harvest time come late spring and summer.
This late-winter or early-spring planting best suits USDA hardiness zones 3–9. In warmer regions, particularly USDA hardiness zones 10–11, planting in fall and growing throughout winter is the better choice.
In fact, if you have mild winters, you can grow them in outdoor containers as much as eight weeks before the last frost for a much earlier harvest! Likewise, if you have cooler summers, feel free to plant peas in the summer for a late fall or early winter harvest.
On the other hand, if you are planting indoors, you likely have much greater control over the temperature, and you can bring them indoors during the harsher phases of winter to protect against the excessive cold. In such cases, you can get away with planting earlier in the winter or later in the summer if you maintain the necessary temperatures.
4. Choose the Ideal Planting Location
|Benefits of indoor planting||
|Benefits of outdoor planting||
There are two things to consider when choosing where to plant your peas. First, you have the necessary amount and type of sunlight, which can change depending on the climate. Secondly, you have air circulation, which promotes healthy growth. Your choice to grow the peas indoors or outdoors affects these requirements, so use the upcoming information to decide the best spot.
Peas in containers can be grown outdoors and indoors, but you must ensure enough vertical space in your home to support their growth. If you planted them outdoors, you could always bring them into the house or somewhere with afternoon shade if you live in hotter climates.
If you are growing them indoors, place them next to a south or west-facing window that regularly gets around 5–6 hours of direct sunlight.
Consider leaving the window open or placing the container in a well-ventilated room to ensure good air circulation when planting indoors. Outdoors, this is not much of a problem: just give the peas enough room to breathe and don’t smother them with other plants and structures. Remember that good circulation is key to preventing several diseases!
5. Set up the Containers
|Benefits of container planting||
The container size for peas depends on the variety you are growing. You will need anywhere between 6–12 inches (dwarf and bush varieties) and 16–24 inches of soil depth (tall climbing vines – some can even go up to 30 inches) to grow peas properly.
The container should be about as wide as the depth as it allows for larger yields and eases the installation of support structures essential for the taller varieties.
If you are growing peas in containers indoors, width becomes much more important than depth as the roots of the dwarf and bushier varieties are shallow with smaller harvests, so allowing more room for more seeds and a sizable yield is a good choice.
Try to get a container made of wood or clay since plastic tends to hold moisture and leach chemicals into the soil, while metal containers will likely overheat in the bright sun exposure the peas require, all of which will damage the plant.
Certain pea varieties called vining peas that grow up to 8 feet tall (but mostly 4–6 ft.) require supporting structures such as trellises or stakes to grow properly and reach the optimal height. Otherwise, they grow along the ground, making them much more susceptible to disease.
Unfortunately, you cannot put these vining varieties indoors, though some shorter ones would be fine if you have lots of vertical space. On the other hand, the dwarf and bush varieties will grow well even without any support and are much better suited for indoor planting. However, they will produce a much smaller yield than their vining elders.
6. Consider the Growing Conditions
Peas are cold crops and grow best in colder environments, even though they can grow in warmer weather. The best time to start growing peas is when the soil temperature reaches at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit – pea seeds won’t germinate in anything colder, so it is vital to maintain this temperature.
Ideally, go for 50–60 degrees Fahrenheit soil temperature before you sow pea seeds in your garden containers for the most efficient growth. Peas love the sun, needing at least 6 hours to thrive, but they also need protection from the afternoon heat, especially if you live in a hot climate with harsh afternoon sun.
In summary, the best peas growing conditions include partial shade to full sun, depending on how hot it gets. In addition to a good amount of sunlight, peas appreciate good air circulation. They will thrive if you put them somewhere with a steady, gentle breeze.
The container should have drainage holes to ensure the plant does not retain water for excessive periods of time, as that can cause root rot. Furthermore, good drainage allows the air to circulate freely through the root system, which is critical for food generation and preventing moisture oversaturation.
7. Ensure Adequate Pea Plant Care and Fertilization
Peas are generally considered low maintenance, and the important thing is to ensure the soil remains consistently moist but not soggy. As a result, they grow best in sandy or loamy soil with a porous nature for good drainage. Most commercial potting mixes will suffice for this task.
For container-grown peas, fertilization is particularly important as most potting mixes lack a balanced supply of nutrients off-the-shelf. General fertilizers at half strength (diluted with more water) once every 2–3 weeks will usually suffice. Do note that peas prefer higher phosphorus content.
Feel free to add compost or manure instead of general fertilizer to supplement the nutrient supply. In fact, applying manure midseason is a good way to avoid issues with overfertilization if you plan on succession planting. If you do so, use a 2–3 inch thick layer of compost and no more than 20% of the container’s volume of manure.
As mentioned earlier, pea plants thrive when the soil is moist but not completely bogged with water. Therefore, after watering, allow the soil to dry off until the top two inches feel only slightly moist before watering the plant again. To help keep the soil moist, you can add mulch to improve the soil’s water retention capability.
With proper temperature, around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, consistently moist soil, and good circulation and drainage, the seeds will germinate anytime between 7–30 days, with the quickest ones occurring at temperatures slightly above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. At just 40 degrees, it can take from 3–4 weeks.
8. Offer Protection Against Wildlife and Pests
Look out for herbivorous animals and rodents such as deer, squirrels, rabbits, and groundhogs, hoping to sneak in a few bites on the pea plants. However, planting in containers means the plants are likely on your porch or indoors, which will usually keep them at bay. Birds also love peas, and if they decide to direct that love toward your plants, you will need to use some bird netting to protect them.
Common pests and insects that infest pea plants include spider mites, aphids, and grubs. Aphids and spider mites you can wash off with jets of water or insecticidal soap. Neem oil is also an effective organic treatment for both pesky buggers.
Grubs are less likely to be a problem, but if you notice yellowing and stunting of leaves for no reason, you will have to get your hands dirty and dig up the soil to check for a grub infestation.
In containers, grubs can severely damage a plant. Get rid of them by placing them in a dish outside for the birds or in soapy water. Discard the infested soil in the garbage, clean out the container, and refill it with fresh potting soil before replanting.
Even though we are talking about containers, companion planting can also help alleviate some of the bug problems. Placing the container next to a crop of slow-growing radishes that repel bugs naturally with their smell can help deter common bugs and pests. You can add other vegetables to the mix, though they will not benefit from the peas’ nitrogen-fixing ability, which is exclusive to its container.
9. Ensure Protection Against Common Diseases
When planted indoors, diseases are not very likely but keep an eye out for powdery mildew, a fungal disease indicated by a powdery gray mold appearing on the leaves. To help prevent and treat it on early sightings, spray the leaves with a preventative fungicide or a milk spray (in bright sun, it has an antiseptic effect) and ensure that the leaves are not exposed to long periods of moisture.
When watering the plants, don’t forget to avoid getting any on the leaves and carefully water just the soil. You can also get wilt and mildew-resistant pea varieties or spray with liquid seaweed on hot days to lower the risk of disease.
Other less common diseases include septoria blotch (fungal) and brown spots (bacterial). The former is untreatable, and the latter is quite hard to get rid of. Prevention is the best medicine in both these cases. Make sure you plant in the right season for your region, practice crop rotation, and switch containers every year or two.
Additionally, ensure the seeds themselves are disease-free before you sow them. Finally, ensure the containers are clean of pathogens by cleaning them thoroughly before use (the best time to clean them is just before planting). If any plant or part of the plant dies from the disease or appears to be dying, cut it off and discard it in a sealed garbage bag.
10. Harvest the Pea Pods
When mature, pea pods are almost 2–3 inches in length for most varieties, though some plants grow up to 8-inch pods, as mentioned earlier. The plant continually produces pods, so harvest peas by carefully plucking the ripe pods from the stem every few days. This will get you more pods out of the plant over its life.
Trimming the stems and support tendrils alongside the pods will encourage bushier growth and allow the plant to focus on pod development. You will know the pod is ripe from its length and by checking if it feels firm to the touch. The shell will also be round and plump for garden peas, whereas it will remain flat for snow peas.
Remember that snow peas mature quicker than the other varieties, so pick them soon after maturing. For snap peas, you can pick them earlier while the peas are still a bit small (like the snow peas) or wait for 2–3 weeks more for them to bulge like the garden peas.
When harvesting, go bottom-up because the lower pods are older. If you want to, you can also harvest the flower blooms, shoots, leaves, and sprouts, as they are also edible.
Peas lend themselves well to containers and bring plenty of culinary value to your garden. To grow them well, remember the following key points from the article:
- Most pea varieties have shallow roots, so the container’s width (for more seed space) is generally more important than the depth for sizable harvests.
- Peas grow best in a cool environment but still need six hours of sunlight.
- Plant them in porous loamy soil with frequent watering to keep them consistently moist but not soggy. Consider mulching.
- Harvest the pods as soon as they are mature to encourage the plant to focus on developing more – it is a continuous process.
Now you know how to grow peas in containers, go ahead and get a-planting, so you can enjoy fresh and tasty peas later on.
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