Growing Peas in Tasmania
Growing Peas are an ideal crop for places like Tasmania with a cool climate as they have time to mature before the weather gets warm. The ideal growing temperature for peas is 13-21°C, a range commonly seen from winter to summer here.
Sow peas in the garden 6 weeks before the last frost date (for me that is mid-August to mid-September). However, they can be sown up to end of October. You can get going in autumn outside but they will not produce over winter but grow slowly. The flowers are impacted by Tassie frosts but the plant is not affected. What you get is pods of peas a bit early in later spring however personally I prefer to grow something else in that spot over winter to increase the yield than have that bed taken up by peas for so long. It is up to you which way you go. No way is wrong!
Peas grow 6 to 10 peas or seeds in a pod. There are generally three types of peas as follows:
- Garden or shelling peas are also called English peas in some places. These are the traditional garden pea. There are early, mid-season, and late varieties; there are bush and tall types. Harvest these peas when the pods are full of round seeds. Petit pois are varieties of shelling peas that produce small pods, just 2 or 3 inches (5-7.5cm) long and are commonly grown in Europe.
- Snap are also called sugar peas or sugar snap peas and are grown for the maturing seeds in the pods. These are harvested when pods are 8-15cm long and pods are bulging but before the pods begin to dry. These are harvested when pods are 4-7cm long and the peas inside are barely visible. Snap peas grow to 45cm-1 m tall.
- Snow peas are not shelled; they are served raw or lightly stir-fried. The pods will be 5-10cm long with very small immature seeds. There are both bush and tall varieties. Snow peas sometimes have side strings that should be removed as they are not very palatable.
Planting Peas and general care
- Prior to planting add well aged manure and or compost to the bed. I side dress with some more compost half way through their life (October if planted late August/early Sept)
- Grow peas in rich, loamy soil that is well-drained. Plant peas in full sun or partial shade. Peas prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Most peas grow supported by poles, a trellis, or fence.
- Time your planting for peas to mature before the weather gets warm (not ideal if they mature in January in Tasmania). The ideal growing temperature for peas is 13-21°C.
- Sow pea seed 5cm deep, 5-7cm apart in double rows supported by a trellis, netting, string or wire supports between two poles for bush varieties. Sow two or three seeds to each hole. Thin plants to 5 to 10cm apart. Space rows 45-60cm apart. A good tip is to soak seed for 4 to 6 hours before sowing but don’t do this if the soil is very wet from heavy winter rains.
- If using seedlings (I have grown many years’ worth of peas by starting seeds in the hothouse for a head start), just gently break apart out of the punnet and plant.
- I add potash at planting and some more in October for good flowering.
- Birds can be a nuisance pulling newly germinated seeds out (starlings and blackbirds often the culprit). Laying some chook wire over the planted area helps deter or hanging some old CD’s around has been useful also.
- Keep the soil evenly moist and do not allow the soil to dry out.
- Provide a trellis or pole to support the pea vines.
- Peas are susceptible to a few diseases. Powdery mildew is common when the weather warms up thus, we sow to avoid maturity in January when conditions are prime for mildews. Avoid handling vines when they are wet. Remove and destroy diseased plants.
- Peas do not need much nitrogen fertiliser as that are from the Fabaceae family of nitrogen root fixers.
Growing Peas will take around 60 to 100 days from sowing to harvest dependant on your weather and variety. Pick shelling peas when the pods are bulging and green before peas start to harden. Young peas are tastier than old ones. Yellowing pods can be used for dried peas. Pick sugar snap and snow peas when pods are 4-7cm long and peas are just barely visible within the pods (this is variety dependant). The sugar in peas do start to convert to starch once picked so pick as close to eating as possible and to slow down this process you can chill them and break pods open immediately before cooking.
Peas do very well in Tasmania. Importing Peas into the state is very difficult due to quarantine rules which rightly want to protect our state but makes it very costly for small business to bring in the huge number of varieties our northern hemisphere cousins have. Fortunately, we do have some good varieties here.
Best of luck in growing peas in Tasmania.