Fresh peas straight from the vine are sweet and crisp, but quickly lose flavor if held at room temperature. According to the University of Missouri Extension, peas lose half their sugar content within three hours of picking, if stored at room temperature. Unshelled peas stored in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator retain their flavor for up to three days. Eat peas grown in your garden as close to harvest as possible for best flavor and texture.
Prepare a bed for peas in a sunny location that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Till the soil as soon as it can be worked in the spring and perform a soil test to determine the needs of your soil.
Amend the soil following the instructions accompanying the soil test kit to balance nutrients and adjust pH (see Resources). Cornell University Extension recommends a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 for peas. Work amendments into the soil with a garden tiller or hand tools.
Install a 6-foot-tall fence or trellis before planting tall peas, also known as telephone peas. Drive stakes into the soil at the ends of rows and attach chicken wire, garden fencing or other fencing material to provide support for growing peas. Check that stakes are securely anchored in the soil and pack the soil tightly around the base of each stake. Dwarf pea varieties do not require support.
Pour pea seeds into a bowl large enough to hold twice the volume of the dried peas. Fill the bowl to within 2 inches of the rim with lukewarm water and allow the pea seeds to soak overnight. Peas absorb moisture and double in size when soaked.
Plant pea seeds in the prepared bed at a depth of 1 to 2 inches spaced 1 to 4 inches apart, according to Cornell University Extension. If you are growing tall peas on a fence or trellis, plant peas 2 inches from the fence. Cover with soil and pack down with the back of the hoe blade.
Water to moisten the soil to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Keep evenly moist until seedlings emerge in 9 to 13 days, depending on the soil conditions and weather.
Side dress peas with a fertilizer such as 5-10-10 when plants are 4 inches high. Sprinkle a band of fertilizer at the product's recommended application rate along the row 4 inches from the base of the peas. Work the fertilizer into the soil with a garden hoe.
Mulch peas with grass clippings to control weeds, conserve moisture and keep the soil cool.
Water deeply to moisten the soil to the root level once a week.