Container Gardening and Peas

Overview

Many vegetables taste pretty much the same whether you buy them in a supermarket or grow them yourself. Not so with peas. Peas are especially sweet and tasty if you cook them before their sugar turns to starch. There are dwarf varieties and peas that climb on vines that are well suited to growing in containers. Peas are considered easy vegetables to grow in containers.

Types to Grow

English peas must be removed from the pod before you can eat them. With sugar snap peas, you eat pods and all; these are the peas you often see in Asian stir fries. Hybrid varieties of peas are available that yield heavily and can be grown in a 8-inch pot. These varieties may grow only 10 inches high and require no trellises.

Planting

Plant peas from seeds; they don't transplant well. Peas will germinate when the soil is about 40 degrees F. As long as the weather remains relatively cool they will grow well. They will stop growing when the temperature is consistently around 80 degrees F. Plant peas in a clay or other porous pot; plastic or glazed ceramic pots may cause the roots to get too hot. Pea roots spread outwards; they don't grow down. So plant the seeds in a shallow, wide container. Plant peas about twice the depth of their size. If the weather is very cold, plant them an inch deep. Plant them about 2 inches apart and 1 inch from the edge of the container.

Support

If you plant peas that are climbers, you will need to build a trellis or other support. Dwarf and bush varieties will grow better with a trellis or wire tomato cage even if they are touted as not needing it. You can stretch string to make a trellis, or use strips of plastic. Put your trellis or cage in place before you plant your seeds so you won't damage the roots of your peas.

Water and Fertilizer

Peas grow in cool weather, so wet leaves are prone to mildew. Water your plants at the soil, not on the leaves. Add an inoculant to the soil when you plant your peas. An inoculant is a dust containing bacteria that help peas and other legumes pull nitrogen from the air. You can buy inoculant dust from most garden supply centers. Fertilize peas weekly as soon as the first flowers appear. Use a 1-2-1 fertilizer or liquid seaweed. If you use a fertilizer that contains too much nitrogen, your plant will grow larger but produce small peas or no peas at all.

Harvesting

Don't leave peas on the vine too long or they will taste bitter and get tough, and eventually, the plants will stop yielding. Since peas have shallow roots, you should not yank the peas pods off the plant. Either hold the pea vine in one hand and remove the pod with your other hand, or snip them off with scissors or clippers.You should get about 1 gallon of peas from most varieties of container peas and twice that many from varieties that climb.

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About this Author

Richard Hoyt, the author of 26 mysteries, thrillers and other novels, is a former reporter for Honolulu dailies and writer for "Newsweek" magazine. He taught nonfiction writing and journalism at the university level for 10 years. He holds a Ph.D. in American studies.