Growing Peas in Victoria
Peas are a cool season crop. They grow through autumn, winter and spring in Victoria. They are tasty and fun to grow and help fix nitrogen into the soil. Most varieties need a trellis or support, although there are dwarf varieties that need less support. Sugar snap and snow peas are grown for their edible pods, while shelling varieties are grown for their edible seeds. Of all the shelling varieties, we are most familiar with green garden peas, but there are also varieties that can be dried and stored. In Victoria, peas are usually planted in autumn and grow a small amount before winter sets in. Once it’s cold and frosty, they don’t grow much, but as soon as the weather starts warming in spring, they’ll make the most of their well-established root systems and really get growing. Pea plants can survive frost, but their sensitive flowers are killed by frost, so they won’t produce a crop until the frosts are over. Peas can be planted into poor soils where heavy feeders like leafy greens have grown previously. Peas are not as pretty or fragrant as sweet peas, but they still put on a fairly impressive display and can look quite pretty when planted in flower beds. Peas grow happily in pots as long as they have enough support.
Don’t over water your peas when you first plant them. Overwatering during germination can cause the seeds to rot and the plants to die.
Peas need at least six hours of sun a day.
Peas can grow in most soils, but prefer soils that are well-draining. Peas add nitrogen to the soil, so it’s not necessary to add manure to the soil before planting, but you can add some cow or sheep manure to help improve the soil structure. It’s always a good idea to add some compost though. Compost adds organic matter to the soil, which help to loosen the soil and improve drainage in clay soils and improves water retention in sandy soils.
Peas don’t like an acidic soil, so check your pH and add some lime to the soil if the pH is too low. Soil pH tests are readily available at most garden centres and are easy to use, so it’s worth checking your pH, especially if you’ve been adding compost to the soil for a few years. Peas do best in a neutral soil with a pH of 6 to 7.5.
Peas like cool, temperate weather. If it’s too warm, they don’t do well. Frosts and freezing weather don’t usually damage the plants, but do kill the flowers, or at the very least, make them sterile. The idea is to get your plants in and established in autumn and then let them settle and possibly do some slow growing over winter. Once spring arrives and the weather warms, they’ll have strong root systems to support loads of fragrant flowers that will turn into seed pods.
Soak the seeds in water over-night.
Sow your peas according to the spacing instructions on the packet. If you’re growing them on tepees, sow 3 seeds at the base of each pole. Water your seeds in well. It’s usually not necessary to water them again until the seeds are up and many people don’t recommend watering them at all in case the seeds rot, but if the soil is dry and the weather is hot, then by all means give them a water. Just be careful not to over water them while you wait for them to germinate. Bush varieties of peas don’t need extensive support, but they will benefit from some light staking to keep them upright and contained at they grow. Stake or cages are ideal for bush-varieties. If you are growing climbing varieties, you’ll need to provide them with a trellis or support of some sort. Peas can grow quite tall. They can be grown on stakes or tepees, but really appreciate some sort of mesh or string to climb. There are lots of ideas of pea supports that can be found online. Sow every 4 weeks to extend the harvest.
Peas like cool, temperate weather. If it’s too warm, they don’t do well. Frosts and freezing weather don’t usually damage the plants, but do kill the flowers or at the very least make them sterile. The idea is to get your plants in and established in autumn and then let them settle and possibly do some slow growing over winter. Once spring arrives and the weather warms, they’ll have strong root systems to support loads of fragrant flowers that will turn into seed pods.
Peas are usually grown from seeds as they don’t like to have they’re delicate roots disturbed and they germinate easily. They can be grown successfully from seedlings too. Take extra care when moving them and planting them into the garden and be aware of their sensitive roots. Water them in well and keep a careful eye on them for the first couple of weeks. They need gentle watering and moist soil to settle in well. Bush varieties of peas don’t need extensive support, but they will benefit from some light staking to keep them upright and contained at they grow. Stake or cages are ideal for bush-varieties. If you are growing climbing varieties, you’ll need to provide them with a trellis or support of some sort. Peas can grow quite tall. They can be grown on stakes or tepees, but really appreciate some sort of mesh or string to climb. There are lots of ideas of pea supports that can be found online.
When the young plants emerge, start gently training them towards their supports. Small twigs or sticks are ideal to get them growing in the right direction. When the peas are about 20cm -30cm tall, pinch out the growing tips. This will encourage the plant to produce side shoots, which will result in bushier plants and higher yields. When your peas are past their best, either dig them into the soil for a green manure or add them to your compost heap. If they are diseased at this point, then rather throw them away.
Peas like soil that is constantly moist, but not waterlogged. The wet, winter weather should do most of the work for you, but be sure to keep your plants well-watered during the warmer spring and autumn weather. Peas are particularly susceptible to fungal diseases like powdery mildew. When you water, try not to get the plants and leaves wet. Water directly only the soil and try not to splash the plants. Drip, trickle, or flood irrigation are all good options for peas. Water your peas early in the day, so that they have a chance to dry quickly. If your garden is prone to becoming waterlogged in winter, then grow your peas in mounds to improve drainage.
Peas don’t need much feeding and can grow well in poor soil. They’ll appreciate a balanced feed when the flowers start to appear, an organic fertilizer, seaweed solution or compost tea are all great options to give them a nutrient boost.
A good mulch will help keep the soil cool during hot weather and protect your peas during the coldest parts of winter. Peas love soil that it constantly moist and a good mulch will help to keep the water in and the weeds out.
Harvest peas regularly to keep them producing the more you pick; the more they’ll produce. Different varieties are picked at different stages. If you’re growing snow peas, pick them once the pods are a good size, and just before the seeds start to swell within them. If you’re growing shelling peas, pick them as soon as they are plump, don’t wait too long to harvest them. The longer they stay on the bush, the more the sugars will turn to starch. Peas that are left for too long before harvesting will be less sweet and a bit tough and dry. Young peas are sweet and tender and delicious.