For best results peas need an open, sunny position with good drainage. Never sow in cold, wet soil; acidic soils should be limed. If spring is slow to arrive, warm the soil with polythene before sowing and then protect seedlings with horticultural fleece. Generally, peas prefer cooler weather and grow well in cool springs.
Make a flat-bottomed trench 5cm (2in) deep and 15cm (6in) wide – a draw hoe is ideal for this. Sow the seeds evenly in the trench approximately 7.5cm (3in) apart, cover with soil, then lightly firm. If you need a second row make this the height of the crop away from the first trench.
Make a single sowing of an early, second early and maincrop variety. First earlies are sown from March to early June and will be ready to pick in 11 to 13 weeks. Second earlies are sown from March to June and are ready in around 14 weeks. Maincrop cultivars are sown at the same time and take up to 16 weeks.
Peas may also be sown in lengths of guttering to germinate indoors for a head start in February or March
Peas are grouped by harvesting time and the shape of the seeds; round peas tend to be hardier than wrinkled varieties.
Water well when the flowering begins and two weeks after. Add a mulch around the base of plants to preserve soil moisture.
Apart from dwarf cultivars, you will need to provide some support for the plants to scramble up. One of the easiest way of supporting taller varieties is adding trellis, bamboo canes and netting. Dwarf varieties can be supported with pea netting or pea sticks (twiggy branches).
After flowering, plants need sufficient water for the pods to swell properly. Check the soil moisture at root level to find out if the plants are getting enough water.
Pea moth: This is the caterpillar that you find when shelling your peas. Female moths lay their eggs on peas that are in flower.
Remedy: Early or late peas, flowering outside their flying period, are undamaged, which means March and June sowings are best. Grow under insect-proof mesh.
More info on Pea moth
Mice: These rodents will eat the seeds where planted
Remedy: Trapping can be effective for mice in a garden situation, although voles can be harder to control. Break-back traps of the type used against house mice can be effective when set in places where damage is occurring. Pieces of carrot or dessert apple are effective baits for voles, and peanut butter for mice. When using traps or baits out of doors, they must be placed under covers to reduce the risk of other animals interfering with them. Birds are particularly vulnerable to accidental trapping.
More info on Mice
Pigeons: Wood pigeons are often the worst bird pest in gardens and on allotments. They peck at leaves, tearing them, sometimes only leaving the stalks. Pigeons can attack many plants, but particularly brassicas and peas.
Remedy: The only certain way of protecting vulnerable plants from pigeons is to grow them under netting or in a fruit cage. Scaring devices or repellent substances are likely to give, at best, only temporary protection. Larger plants such as established lilacs will usually recover from pigeon damage and so it can be tolerated.
More info on Pigeons
Powdery Mildew: Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivel.
Remedy: Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations.
More info on Powdery Mildew
By choosing different types and cultivars you can harvest fresh pea pods from June until October. Mangetout and sugar snap varieties are generally the easiest to grow.
Pods are ready to harvest when they are well filled. Pick regularly or the plants stop producing flowers and pods.
Mangetout and sugar snaps peas should be picked when the pods are about 7.5cm (3in) long, just as the peas are starting to develop.
Nigel Slater teams fresh green peas with lentils and goats’ cheese in this warm salad.
‘Feltham First’:Early peas - Round seeded first early and is very hardy, has large, well filled pods of fair flavoured seeds.
‘Kelvedon Wonder’ AGM:Early peas - First early, can be used as an early or main crop, have an excellent flavour.
‘Early Onward’:Early peas - A heavy cropping second early, with sweet wrinkled seeds.
‘Balmoral’ AGM:Maincrop - A late maincrop; dark-foliaged plant produces a heavy crop ofdouble and triple pods per node. Short pods have an average of seven peas per pod, with goodsweet flavour.
‘Dorian’:Maincrop - An early maincrop; good crop of easy to pick, very long, straight pods. Plants not too tall; produce mainly double pods per node that contain an average of nine big, well-flavoured peas.
‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ AGM:Mangetout peas - Fair flavour, round seeded, very hardy harvest as soon as the pods are big enough to use.
‘Reuzensuiker’ AGM:Mangetout peas - Compact and needs little support, the pods are wide, fleshy and sweet.
‘Sugar Ann’ AGM:Sugarsnap - Early cropping and a good yield of early, sweet pods.
‘Cascadia AGM:Sugarsnap - Early, attractive, fleshy, tender pods, exceptionally heavy cropping with a sweet flavour.