Planting peas is a rite of spring in many places. Conventional wisdom tells us when to plant peas — on St Patrick’s Day. This may be the right time for some, but it may also be too early or too late for others.
How do we know when to plant peas? The answer is in the soil.
Soil temperature is one way to figure out this answer. It influences the germination of everything, including peas. The best soil temperature for pea germination is 50-60°F. Use a thermometer to take your soil’s temperature at 4″ deep at 6am. If it’s warm enough, go ahead and sow them.
Moisture is another helpful sign. It is necessary for germination, but peas don’t like soggy soil. If you can wring water from your soil or it feels soggy or sticky, it is better to wait until it is it’s no longer water logged.
When you wait until the conditions are right, you’ll get faster germination, quicker establishment, healthier plants, and better production. Don’t worry if you miss St. Patrick’s Day; while it may be your first chance, it isn’t your last chance.
Can you still get a good crop of peas even if you sow them late?
YES YOU CAN! When you are ready to plant your peas:
First, soak your peas for at least 6 hours ahead of time. Just put them in tepid water; nothing special. The night before planting is a great time to soak them. The wrinkly little seeds will grow 3-5 times in size. This speeds up germination and emergence a lot, so you’ll have established plants sooner.
Second, harvest at the right time. If you sow late and your peas are ripening in warmer weather, above 75°F days, don’t let the pods over-develop. Harvest them before you can tell there’s peas inside. Also, harvest in the morning when temperatures are coolest. Both of these tips will ensure the mildest flavor even in warmer weather.
Third, don’t forget about a fall crop. If you miss planting peas in spring, you can sow peas 8-10 weeks before your first frost and get a great crop that is made sweeter by the cool weather of fall.
When do I plant peas? Sometimes St. Patrick is right, and sometimes he’s not. But growing a good, or even great, crop of peas is possible in more than one way and at more than one time.