There are two main varieties of peas grown in home gardens. Shelling peas are grown for the edible pea seeds, which are harvested when the seeds are still immature and tender. Mangetout peas are grown for their edible pods; snow peas and sugar snap fall into this category. Both types of peas thrive under the same cultural care, but they are harvested at different times. Peas are fairly low-maintenance in the garden, making them a suitable choice for a novice gardener.
Plant peas in a well-prepared garden bed in an area that receives full-sunlight. Lay a 2-inch layer of compost over the planting area and till it in to the top 6 inches of soil to provide additional nutrients and drainage to the area.
Perform a soil test prior to planting, following the instructions included with the test. Soil tests are available at garden centers or can be performed by your county extension office. Fertilize at the rate recommended for legumes on the test. If you don't perform a soil test, apply 1 lb. of 5-20-20 analysis fertilizer per every 100 square feet of bed before planting, and apply an additional 4 lbs. between the rows after planting the peas.
Water the planting bed as necessary to keep the soil moist. Place a rain gauge near the pea plants and water on weeks when there is less than 1 inch of natural precipitation. Irrigate at the base of the plants and avoid getting the foliage wet, as this can lead to fungus or disease.
Lay a 3-inch layer of straw mulch around the pea plants once they are 5 inches tall. Peas have shallow roots and do not compete well with weeds. Mulching prevents weeds and helps the soil remain moist.
Install a stake or trellis if you are growing vine-type peas. Use a 5- to 6-foot tall trellis or pea tepee. Peas climb trellising on their own and require no tying. Bush varieties do not require trellising.
Harvest pea pods in the afternoon when the plants are dry. Hold the stem behind the pod with one hand and pull the pod off with the other hand. Avoid tugging and damaging the vine. Harvest daily once peas begin maturing to encourage further production on the plant.