Complete Guide to Peas: Best to Grow, Sweetest, FAQs


Peas are a beloved ingredient for many, and they’re very healthy because of their high vitamin content, fiber, and protein. There’s nothing better than growing your own produce, and to do that, you need to know how to grow them, which variety to choose from, and how to harvest them.

English peas, snow peas, and snap peas are the best varieties to grow, while snap peas are the sweetest of the bunch. Peas are generally very easy to grow, care for, and harvest. It takes about 60 days to harvest peas from seeding.

Read on to learn about the different varieties of peas, what they’re used for, which one is the best choice, and find the answers to all the questions you might have.

An image of Fresh green raw peas and pods background.

What Are The 4 Types of Peas?

Although there are thousands of subtypes of peas, these four types are the most common: English peas (also known as garden peas), field peas, snow peas, and snap peas.

Specifications for four types of peasEnglish peasField peasSnow peasSnap peas
Size4 inches max3 inches max5 inches max3 inches max
UsesHuman food (frozen and in cans) and livestock feedMostly livestock feedHuman foodHuman food
Edible wholly?No, the shell is too thick.No, the shell is too thick.Yes, the shell is digestible.Yes, the shell is digestible.
Grow it? Our RecommendationYesOnly for livestockYesYes
Table 1. Information about four different types of peas.

English peas

Garden peas have a hard shell no longer than 4 inches, while the peas inside are sometimes wrinkled. They’re usually green in color.

Peas need to be taken out of the shell to prepare them – the shell isn’t edible (unlike with some other pea types, as we’ll soon learn). People can eat the peas raw, but it’s recommended that they’re cooked.

These types of peas are most often found in cans and frozen. They’re a great addition to salads, pasta, and soups.

Field peas

Although field peas are edible, they’re more often used as livestock feed than human food. The reason for this lies in the high carbohydrate content, as well as the high protein content.

Field peas aren’t the optimal choice if you’re interested in growing peas for your consumption.

Snow peas

Snow peas are like snap peas (read next entry) and are entirely edible. The pod’s wall (shell) is very thin and not as full of fiber as English peas, making it more digestible for people.

The pods can grow up to five inches, while the peas are usually green. To eat a pea pod, we must remove the strings alongside the pod. We can also take the pod apart and only eat the peas.

People can eat both the peas and the pods and eat them raw, but they cook them as well.

Sugar snap peas

Snap peas are also entirely edible (although it might be wise to wash them first). Completely edible peas such as snap and snow peas are called mangetout peas, coming from the French expression ‘pois mange-tout,’ which means ‘eat all pea.’

These peas have a thicker wall than snow peas, but they’re still entirely edible. The pod is shorter than the snow pea pod, rarely growing past three inches.

Just like snow peas, strings need to be removed before eating the pod, while they can be eaten raw or cooked. Sugar snap peas are considered the sweetest type of peas, making them an excellent choice for kids if we want to teach them to eat vegetables.

How to Grow Peas

Peas can grow in cool soil, making them favorable for many gardeners in colder climates. Also, peas don’t require much room since they grow vertically – they are climbing plants. Some varieties grow 9-foot-long vines, but there are shorter varieties as well.

We can grow a lot of peas with relatively little room. Likewise, it’s possible to grow peas inside, albeit not in the same amounts.

The table below allows a simplified view.

An image of a woman picking pea pods from a green pea plant in a garden.

Which peas should I plant?

The type of peas you want to plant depends entirely on your goals, needs, and food storage plan. For example, if you want peas for your livestock, you’ll want to plant field peas. However, if you want peas in a shell, you can pick between snow and snap peas.

I’d refer you to the earlier table to help you decide which kind of peas to plant, but I’ll just put it here for you again. You’re welcome!

Specifications for four types of peasEnglish peasField peasSnow peasSnap peas
Size4 inches max3 inches max5 inches max3 inches max
UsesHuman food (frozen and in cans) and livestock feedMostly livestock feedHuman foodHuman food
Edible wholly?No, the shell is too thick.No, the shell is too thick.Yes, the shell is digestible.Yes, the shell is digestible.
Grow it? Our RecommendationYesOnly for livestockYesYes
Table 1. Information about four different types of peas.

Where do peas grow?

Since they’re hardy plants, peas do not need a particular soil type to grow successfully. Peas can even grow in soil with plenty of clay.

However, it’d be best to plant them in fertile soil with good drainage for the best results.

The most important thing to keep in mind when planting peas is soil acidity – this is their most obvious weak point. Peas do not do well in highly acidic soil (source) or with high salinity.

Gardeners should keep the soil pH between 5.5 and 7 for optimal results.

Where should you plant peas?

It would be best to plant the peas in the garden. First, we should plant the seeds into the ground. Unlike some other plants, peas are most easily grown from seeds, not by transplanting a young plant.

Peas are incredibly hardy plants, and they can tolerate extreme temperatures. However, they might need some help. Without any cover, peas can endure temperatures of 14°F, but anything below that is lethal to them unless we cover them.

If the temperatures in the area drop below that, it’d be best to provide some cover. When covered, they can survive temperatures as low as -22°F.

When should you plant peas?

Plant pea seeds a month before the final spring frost, usually in March. Do not worry about temperatures dropping and snowfall – snow cannot hurt peas, and the plants will grow through it.

Since we’ll harvest them very quickly, we’ll have another chance to plant peas in August. Then, these peas will be ready for harvesting in the fall.

How to plant peas?

The most efficient way of planting peas is two inches apart in a single row. The seed should be covered with at least an inch of soil. Two rows should be at least twenty inches apart – otherwise, the vines could intertwine when they grow, creating a mess we’ll have to clean up.

A great thing we can do to help the peas is to install support stakes. Pea vines will grow alongside these stakes. Insert them about 3 inches from the seed planting spot.

How much sun do peas need?

Peas depend on temperature more than they depend on sunlight. About four hours of sunlight is enough for them, which makes them very low-maintenance when it comes to sunlight requirements.

How much water do peas need?

Just like with sunlight, peas don’t need too much water. Unless the air is arid and the temperatures are exceptionally high, peas only need about an inch of water every week.

Your peas will need more water if you live in an arid and hot location. You may also want to adjust when you plant peas, so they don’t grow during the hottest part of the year.

For example, when I lived in Arizona, we didn’t plant peas in March, as they never survived the summer. Instead, we planted them in the fall or winter – and they did fine growing through the winter to be harvested before the triple-digit heat hit in summertime.

Here in Utah, it’s still arid and hot (but not Arizona hot). We can plant and harvest peas on the traditional schedule or start them earlier with a cold frame.

Do peas need fertilizer?

Peas will do very well with some fertilizer, but not too much. The fertilizer’s NPK ratio should be low in nitrogen, as it will make the peas grow flowers.

An image of weeding on a garden bed.

Pea Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases can happen with peas, and weeds are the most common problem. Weeds will likely have to be ripped out by hand, a chore gardeners cannot skip. The two most common diseases are powdery mildew and damping off (a fungal infection).

Weeds feed on the nutrients meant for the peas, not to mention that they’re choking them.

Peas aren’t particularly susceptible to pests (source), but it’s possible to find worms, aphids, mites, and pea weevils. Experts recommend using appropriate pesticides (or organic options) to take care of this. Otherwise, the pests will keep coming.

The two most common diseases are powdery mildew and damping off.

Damping off is an incurable fungal disease – once we see its symptoms, the plant is already as good as dead. This happens to peas in wet soil (which is why we mustn’t overwater our plants).

The best way to minimize this is to keep a watering schedule, but we can also pretreat the seed with a fungicide.

Secondly, we have powdery mildew, which requires applying neem oil (common with many plants) to the foliage. We can also use fungicide made for powdery mildew.

Type of soilSoil pHTime of plantingSun requirementsWater requirements
Fertile soil with good drainageBetween 5.5 and 7. Peas are sensitive to acidic soilSpring (early April) and late summer (August)Peas need a little sun, 4 hours a day is enoughOne inch of water a week is enough; anything more than that is overwatering.
Table 2 Part 1. Specifications for soil, planting, sun, water, and fertilizer.
Fertilizer requirementsPests & DiseasesTime to Harvest
It will do well with potassium and phosphorus, but the mix needs to be low in nitrogen.Not prone to any specific species, aphids and worms are moderately common. Powdery mildew and damping off are common diseases.50-70 days, depending on temperature and variety.
Table 2 Part 2. Specifications for soil, planting, sun, water, and fertilizer.

How and When to Harvest Peas

We can quickly harvest peas by pulling the pod off the vine. This can be a tedious job, but there is no other efficient way to do it. The best time to harvest peas is about 60 days after planting. Depending on the temperature, it can take between 50 and 70 days to reach maturity.

Once the plant becomes yellow, it’s time to take it out of the ground and plant new seeds. If you haven’t harvested the peas by this point, they’re no good anymore, and you shouldn’t eat them.

Best Ways to Store Peas

The best way to store peas is to freeze them. They can be stored for a very long time if done correctly. The expiration date on stored and canned peas is usually more than a year.

Short-term storage methods

We don’t have to keep peas in the fridge if we’re going to eat them a few hours later or the day after picking them. The general rule of thumb is that anything less than 36 hours doesn’t require refrigeration.

Medium-term storage methods

Peas can be refrigerated or frozen for medium-term storage. Peas keep up to a week in the fridge or up to several months in a freezer.

If we’re not eating the peas immediately, it’d be best to put them in the fridge. They can stay in there without going bad for at least a week. If there is enough room and we don’t want to spend time defrosting them later, keeping them in the fridge is the way to go.

Long-term storage methods

Peas can be frozen, canned, or freeze-dried for long-term storage. Frozen peas keep up to a year or more, while canned peas last several years. Freeze-dried peas can last up to 25 years.

Freeze them! Peas will go bad if they’re not stored correctly, and the best way to keep the quality is by freezing them. We could also can them, but canning peas is a complicated process that requires a canning machine.

A frozen bag of peas can stay in the freezer for at least eight months. They will keep longer than that, but they will start losing their quality.

An image of young green peas in bowl and Pods peas on a grey old wooden background.

Pea FAQs

Here are some answers to the most common questions about peas. If you don’t see your specific question, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via our contact us page and ask it. That way, we can get it answered – and add it here for others when they have the same question!

What is the best type of peas to grow?

English peas, snap peas, and snow peas are all great options. Since peas are so easy to grow, try growing all three varieties and choose varieties going forward based on taste, need, and want. They all grow equally quickly and are easily grown, but taste differences exist.

What is the sweetest tasting pea?

Snap peas are the sweetest, which is why they’re so popular. Snap peas are excellent veggies for teaching kids to eat healthy food.

What is the difference between snap peas and sugar snap peas?

There is no difference between snap and sugar snap peas; they’re just two names for the same pea variety. It’s all marketing, albeit successful marketing.

Are pea pods edible?

Only the pods of snap peas and snow peas are edible. These peas are mangetout peas because we can eat them whole and raw. It is recommended to clean or pull off the fiber string first, though.

Are snap peas or snow peas the same as edamame?

Peas are different from edamame. Although they look almost identical, edamame is pods of soybeans. Since the pods are green and contain small beans, people commonly confuse them with peas.

Are snap peas soybeans?

Snap peas are not soybeans but are very similar in shape, size, and color.

They’re all yummy, though.

Next Steps

Now that you know more about peas of all kinds, you should be set to try growing your own.

But to get you started, check out any of our additional articles that cover growing peas, beans, and other yummy gardening staples.

Resources

Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.

  • “Soil Health at USDA-NRCS: What’s New?” CSA News, vol. 64, no. 10, 2019, pp. 26–27. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.2134/csa2019.64.1014.
  • VanDerZanden, Ann Marie, and Bob Rost. “Internet Video Access Appears Difficult for Oregon Extension Master Gardeners.” HortTechnology, vol. 13, no. 2, 2003, pp. 385–87. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.21273/horttech.13.2.0385.
An image of Kimberly and her daughter gardening

About Us

I’m Kimberly Starr. My family has always loved being outside and gardening. Now we are building a backyard homestead and immersing ourselves in this wonderful new lifestyle. We’re learning as we go what works and what doesn’t. This website is where we’re sharing everything we’ve learned.

We believe in transparency.

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