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Organic Peas - Growing and Seed Saving Info


Peas (Pisum sativum) are a cool season annual in the Leguminosae family, which includes beans, garbanzos, lentils, and peanuts.

  • Shell peas, or English peas, are tender peas growing inside a tough pod which is discarded.
  • Snow peas have a sweet a delectable pod. These are harvested while peas are still small.
  • Snap peas have a succulent edible pod as well as plump sweet peas.

Soil  and Nutrient Requirements

Because peas are planted in the early spring when conditions are often wet, good drainage is important. Sandy soils are best. Ensure good yields by adjusting soil pH to above 6.0 using lime, or wood ash where soils are low in potassium. For nitrogen, 20-30 lbs /acre is adequate. Higher amounts may cause lush foliage with poor flowering and fruit set. Peas fix nitrogen in the soil through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. To ensure adequate numbers of pre-existing bacteria, mix seed with inoculants right before planting.


Full sun to part shade

Seeding Depth

Seeding depth: 1-2

Seeding Rate

Direct seeding: Sow ~25 seeds/ft in a 3" wide band. Dwarf varieties do not require trellising, but taller varieties should be supported in order to avoid disease and make harvesting easier. Plant peas in two rows, 8-12 apart, with a mesh or wire trellis between the rows for peas to climb.

Plant Spacing


Row Spacing

For dwarf peas 12-18", for trellising peas 4-6'

When to Sow

Direct seed as soon as soil can be worked in the spring. Seeds will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40F, although slowly.  When soils are around 60F, seeds will germinate more quickly. Hot, dry conditions adversely affect quality and yield, so it is advantageous to have the crop mature as early as planting schedules allow. In some regions, you can grow a successful fall crop by planting in late summer.

Frost Tolerant


Drought Tolerant


Heat Tolerant


Seed Specs

90-170 seeds/oz, 1,500-2,700 seeds/lb (2M avg). M=1,000

Seeding Rate

Dwarf- 27M seeds/1000 (13.5 lbs), 550M seeds/acre, (~ 270 lbs.), using ~25 seeds/ft, 12 row spacing. Trellised- 50M seeds/1,000 (26 lbs), 400M seeds/acre. (~ 200 lbs.), using ~25 seeds/ft, double rows 12 apart on 6 centers.


Harvest when pods fill out, but before seeds turn starchy. Regular picking will increase yields.


Keep pea pods at near freezing temperatures for around a week.

Pest Info

         Aphids can be washed off plants with a hard stream of water. They have several natural predators that control populations including parasites (aphids appear grey or bloated), lady beetle larvae and lacewings.

         Seedcorn maggot Avoid heavy applications of manure or organic matter, as this can attract the flies and encourage egg laying.


Disease Info

  • Peas are subject to an array of root rots and wilts caused by different pathogens that are difficult to distinguish in the field and extremely difficult to control. The pathogens survive in the soil in dormant states that can persist for many years. Varieties resistant to all races of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. pisi are available, and others with resistance to Pythium spp. and Fusarium solani f. sp. pisi are under development.
  • Peas are also subject to several leaf and pod blights, of which the most important are probably aschochyta blight (caused by any of three related species) and bacterial blight ( Pseudomonas syringae pv. pisi). Both these diseases are highly transmissible by seed; all of our pea seed is grown in arid areas in which these diseases do not occur. All pea plant residues should be buried, burned, or composted at high temperatures to destroy disease organisms.
  • Powdery mildew can be checked by providing good air circulation. Give plants wide spacing and eliminate weeds, especially milkweed, marshcress and yellowrocket. Choose resistant varieties.

Seed Saving Instructions

Self pollinated. Pea varieties do not require any distance for isolation. Peas being grown for seed must be trellised or else mold and dampness will rot the seed pods. Allow the pods to grow large and tough and eventually they and the plants will begin to dry down. Harvest by picking individual dry pods or by pulling the entire plants out of the ground and off the trellis. Shell by hand or thresh by flailing or stomping on a tarp. A 1/2" screen on top of a 1/4" screen will help with cleaning once the peas are threshed out of the pods. Pea seed will remain viable for 3 years under cool and dry storage conditions.


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