Hamilton College Community Farm

Plant: Pea

Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae

Seed Varieties:

There are three main types of peas: garden peas, snap peas, and snow peas.

  • Garden Peas - Also known as English peas, this variety is shelled for use, discarding the pod and only using the peas inside. It has either smooth or wrinkled seeds. The wrinkled variety has less starch and is sweeter than their smooth counterpart. The smooth variety is what is generally used as dry peas for split pea soup and such. Green arrow is a preferred variety.
  • Snap Peas - This variety was produced by selecting for garden peas with a lower-fiber pod, so it is easy to snap and tender, eaten along with the immature peas inside.
  • Snow Peas - These are a type of snap peas that are to be harvested very early, so the peas have not yet developed and the pod is still flat.
Indoor Start Date and Cell size:

Peas should be directly seeded in the garden.

Greenhouse Transplant Date and Cell size:

Peas should be directly seeded in the garden.

Outdoor Transplant Date and Bed Specifications:

Sew peas directly in the garden o 4/21 for shelling peas, and 4/23 for snap peas. Sew both varieties again on 5/1, 7/15, and 8/1. Plant the peas three inches apart, with two rows to each bed. The seeds can be inoculated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria to help with the plants’ nutrients.

Plant Needs and Cultivation:

Peas thrive in cool weather, and will not produce if planted too late. As with all plants, peas are extremely delicate when they first germinate, and so while cultivation is important, it must be done gently, so as not to damage the young plants and roots. Pea plants get to be quite tall and so they must be staked for support. Plant the wooden stakes every four feet along the row, and twine levels of string every foot up the poll to support the pea plants from either side. As the pea plants grow taller, more levels of string can be added. Not only does this technique keep the plants from flopping over and provide them with something to vine up, it also makes for easier harvesting and cultivation. Other than weeding and irrigation, not much is necessary for peas. They do not respond well to fertilizer, although mulch can be spread to help keep the soil cool and rot free, in addition to helping to control the weeds.

Pests and Pest Control:

Fusarium wilt, and root-rot are the most common problems encountered with peas. Both cause a withering and yellowing of the lower leaves, and the poor production of only a few scantily filled pea pods. Well-drained and aerated soil can help prevent rot, and using wilt resistant seed varieties is always a good precaution.

Harvest Techniques:

Peas should be harvested before they get too old and tough, indicated by yellowing and wrinkling of the pod. For shelling varieties, the peas should be well developed and tender. It takes time to become familiar with the perfect size. Snap varieties should be harvested before the pea develops, while the pod is still relatively flat. Be sure to hold the plant with one hand while picking with the other, to prevent pulling up the whole plant.


Peas should be fairly clean when harvested, so there is no need to wash them before storage. Unwashed peas will keep in perforated plastic bags for two or three days in the refrigerator. Shelled peas can also be frozen in Ziploc bags.


For wholesale, peas should be sold at $2.00 per pound. Retail price is $3.50 per pint.