If you love the idea of sowing pea and bean seeds and want to try growing them at home or on your allotment, we asked trained horticulturist, Sam Corfield, to talk you through his pea season. A man who likes to keep things simple, here are his top tips to help you enjoy excellent harvests with minimum fuss. Whether you want to grow juicy garden varieties, succulent sugar snaps or mangetout, this simple guide will have you growing your own peas in no time.
Why everyone should grow peas
There really is nothing sweeter in the vegetable world than peas fresh from the garden, and who can resist the delicious snap of crisp mangetout? Sam, who for the best part of a decade, worked at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall and now designs veggie gardens for businesses who’d like to grow their own produce, says growing summer peas takes him right back to childhood:
“I just love growing peas because it brings back happy memories of foraging amongst the rows, the enjoyment of hunting for the largest pods and trying to hide the fact you’ve eaten half the pods your mother needs for dinner!”
A great crop to grow with children, follow Sam’s step-step-instructions to ensure success.
Which variety of peas should I plant?
At the pub, (one of the businesses I garden for) I’m growing four 12 metre rows this year, with a new row sown every two weeks. The variety is Pea ‘Shiraz‘ which I’m growing as a mangetout. The plants have colourful flowers and stunning purple pods. I find they have a slightly more earthy taste to them which I really like. Working with the chefs we’ve found that if you stir fry them very briefly they hold their colour and keep their crispness!
Tips for growing excellent peas
I start by getting my peas to shoot in an airtight container. I find the best results come from my partner’s cake boxes – she’s never very happy about that – but any sealable container will do. Place a layer of damp newspaper in the bottom then add the peas and a little water. Cover with another layer of damp newspaper and seal up. Leave for around 48hrs or until they start to shoot. Not only does this give your peas a kick up the backside, it also stops rodents using them as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
How to sow peas
While you can sow peas in pots, tubs or gutters, I’ve always sown directly into the ground and I’m yet to have a failed crop.
I rake out a furrow along the row with a depth of roughly an inch. It’s important not to damage the shoots that have appeared on your peas when you remove them from the container.
Spread them along the length of your desired row – there’s no need to be too precise or stingy with the coverage as they won’t struggle being so close. Cover with a layer of soil and a sprinkle of water if the weather’s dry!
To stop your not-so-friendly pigeons indulging in fresh pea shoots, I also cover the ground with a homemade chicken mesh cover but you can also buy proper cloche hoops/kits for small rows.
How to support your peas
Once the peas have reached around 15cm (6”) I set up a 4/5ft post and netting support frame. This is perfect for long rows but for small rows you can use string, twine, hazel and sycamore – basically anything they can grab hold of.
After that just sit back and wait for your first pods…..
Reaping the harvest
Peas are easy to grow and always behave well – I can’t wait to eat these!
And it’s never too late to sow peas in my book, especially if you’re after mangetout and shoots. I’ve sowed small rows in August/September and still had a decent glut.
Find more great pea growing resources, and a wealth of top tips for growing legumes over at our pea and bean hub page.
Having trained at Duchy College in Cornwall, he then spent 10+ years on and off working at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. In between Sam has setup a garden at RHS Hampton Court show, lived and worked on large private garden in New Zealand and worked for the BBC as a Natural history cameraman.
Sam now advises, designs and builds vegetable gardens for businesses, allowing them to grow their own crops. He tends to grow slightly more unusual crops and loves experimenting!