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Pea question...

Luise Carr

Joined: Mar 30, 2012
Posts: 4
I have had trouble with my peas this year...
I read in Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living (which I highly recommend!!) that she plants her peas as early as February when there's still frost and snow and then they just lie in the soil and wait until it warms up to pop out with a headstart. I tried that last year and it failed, but I figured it was the fierce late frosts that did them in. This year I tried again. Nothing happened. I dug some up and they seem to just have rotted and fallen apart. Does that mean that I misunderstood Carla and peas, like beans, rot unless the ground is the minimum germination temperature (which is 6 degrees Celsius for peas if I remember correctly)? Or did something else mess with them? Because... after the ground was definitely warm enough (I checked with a temperature and it was 11 degrees C), I planted them all again and after a few weeks when only 10% were showing even though it had been very warm, I again dug some up and many had little holes (tiny worm sized ones) in them or the root had been bitten off. So here I suspect interference but could that creature also be responsible for my pre-spring losses?
I hope somebody can enlighten me!
Thanks a lot!
Craig Dobbelyu

Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 1188
Location: Maine (zone 5)
You could try to sprout them before you plant them. Just give them enough of a head start to beat the bugs and the cold. I've not tried it but it seems like it might work. If you still have critter issues then try starting them in seed trays then transplant when they have a few leaves. Seems like a lot of work but I see people who but pea seedlings in the local stores. Worth a try.

"You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result”


- Compost in training
Ray South

Joined: Jul 11, 2011
Posts: 46
Location: Northern Tablelands, NSW, Australia
What I would like to do is start sowing lots of peas direct and keep seed from any that make it. Hopefully I'd eventually have a pea that is really suited to my conditions and cultural practices. Last year I saved lots of seed so I could start this little project this coming spring (September for me).
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6883
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
I think that this is a fairly common 'problem' with winter-sowing and/or early plantings. Soil critters generally prefer rotten or semi-rotten matter to living, fresh matter. But soil critters (just like the deer and rabbits) are looking for food as the winter ends, and anything is better than going to bed hungry.

I like to till in some half finished compost before the first frost. It has all winter to finish, but more importantly, it provides food for the critters until the soil warms up in spring. This can help them keep reproducing instead of 'hibernating' half of the year. An application of almost ready compost at the time of early planting can help keep them eating 'garbage' instead of germinating seeds and seedlings.

Peas/beans are among the seeds that are usually said to be best planted 'directly', as they often do not transplant well. If you can use newspaper pots to start them, this saves them from most transplant shock. (I do NOT use the Jiffy Pots, as they do not break down quick enough for fast growing seedlings.)

Thelma McGowan

Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 170
Location: western Washington, Snohomish county--zone 8b
I read recently about an old wives tale that states to Plant peas "When the leaves on the lilacs are the size of mouse ears" ..Cute huh!

I also heard the saying plant the peas on Presidents day-----so I ask you , who do you trust more, The presidents or the Lilacs? :0)

When I have planted My peas in February...they have just rotted in the ground. I always have better luck now in March....The Lilac leaves are about the size of mouse Ears here at my house ;0)

I have also read what Carla Emory wrote , she talks about just kicking some dirt over the seeds! In Idaho Her seasons were different , Nothing will bother the seed when it is so cold,Where do you live? Here in My neck of the woods it does not freeze hard. I just have a big muddy mess that is a great place for bugs to hang out and eat seeds. you can plant most seeds any time, but they won't germinate until it is the right Temperature for them. Lilacs are a good temperature gauge .

There are no experts, Just people with more experience.
Ken Peavey

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2523
Location: FL
I've been keeping my pea seeds going for several years. The strain has taken drought, neglect and several frosts, and still performs well. I've grown them over most winters. In '07 I lost most plants to 3 weeks of particularly cold mornings. '08 saw most of them dry up. I did not have time to plant them last year, so the seed is older. This year I again lost almost every plant to repeated hard freeze. TWO are still going. I've got my last 200 seeds in the ground right now, they are just starting to germinate. These seeds are starting to build tolerance to my growing methods and environment. Saving seed from season to season can give you a hardy strain, but it takes a couple of decades with lots of failures.

For getting them started I've tried several methods.
-Greenhouse starts/transplanting
I get the best germination rate. The plants are pretty easy to transplant so long as the big bottom root is not damaged. The plants are placed right where I want them and can be mulched immediately. Roots are long enough to hold up against a dry spell. For my own consumption, this does not take too long. For market, this method takes way too much time. There's not a lot of money in peas. This method does not leave the seeds at the mercy of the environment. Too much moisture, the seed can rot. Not enough, nothing grows.
-Scattering them on the top of the ground, walking away.
Believe it or not, this works. Make darn sure the chickens can't get to the field or they'll eat the seed as fast as you can broadcast it. Water sees them turn white. Roots form in a couple of days. While the plants do fine, the germ rate is much lower, maybe 50%. I've tried this up north with snow on the ground, got enough out to sell. The advantage is that this method takes almost no time.
-Poking them in by hand
For small amounts of seed, this works just fine. Spacing is just right and it only takes a few minutes to cover 10 square feet. Plenty for a couple of meals.
-Earthway seeder
Quick and easy, good germ rate, great spacing, seed is covered. For anything more than a pound of seed, I'll swear by my seeder. For market, this can't be beat.

In nature, plants that produce a heap of seeds do so in order that some will survive. Plants that produce just a few seeds do it in a manner that gives the seeds more advantage. Peas can be copious in their production which tells me they have a high rate of failure. Much of it has to do with the fact they are delicious-they are my favorite.

Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
Brenda Groth

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
it just means that your conditions weren't the same as hers.

often if it is too wet things will rot when planted early ..although in some areas people even plant their peas in fall..but it depends on your area.

try holding back 1/2 of your seed when you plant in case you lose some, you can always fall plant the held back seed if you get a good spring planting.

i have had spring losses when it was too cold and wet ..or when the weather was up and down.

this has been a wierd weather year..some of my peas began to grow and some haven't this year..I planted them around the middle of march.


Bloom where you are planted.
Megan Wantoch

Joined: Apr 03, 2012
Posts: 25
Location: Northern England
I've had really good results starting them in a section of gutter in the greenhouse- I assume you could do it in a house or shed too. When they're an inch or two high you can just slide them out and have an instant row. I think I'm getting near 100% germination plus a quick start, and the move doesn't seem to faze them.
Terri Matthews

Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 418
Location: Eastern Kansas
I suspect that the problem is in a difference in climate.

Where I live, in Kansas, the air and soil warm up but the bad weather is not finished. We can still get snow and frost. Peas are planted then, to get them off to a good start.

Yes, peas will take some frosts. BUT! peas seem to de best if the soil is in the 60's farenheight: that would be 15 to 20 degrees celcius.

I do not know what soil temperature Carla Emory had and her book is where I cannot get too it. But, for me, the peas germinate best if the soil temperature is warmer than what your's was.
subject: Pea question...