Pea Varieties

Pea Varieties

Read an introduction to pea varieties here.

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About Pea Varieties

There are many varieties of peas to choose from including early and maincrop types, and the delicious and sweet tasting mangetout and sugar snap varieties. Early types are sometimes divided into first earlies and second earlies, the main difference being the time the plants take to harvest, with first earlies (as the name suggests) providing their crop approximately two weeks before second earlies. First earlies take approximately 3 months to reach harvest, whereas maincrop varieties need an extra month.

Whatever type of pea you choose, they are planted at about the same time of year from March onwards. Peas do not germinate well in cold and wet soil, so it is best to wait until the weather warms in the spring before planting outdoors. If you want to start earlier, you could try covering your rows with plastic cloches.

Peas are sometimes referred to as round or wrinkled, which relates to the appearance of the seed. The smooth round peas are said to be more hardy. In practice, many gardeners wait until the weather warms up before planting either type.

There are also dwarf varieties of peas available. Whereas standard peas are natural climbers, and therefore require tying to supports like a waist high wigwam frame, dwarf varieties grow up to 45 centimetres and only need simpler supports like upright canes. They are also good for growing in pots.

Whatever type of pea you choose, they will need to be protected from birds. Peas are delicious, but the biggest problem with growing peas are actually the young plants with their sweet leaves that are loved by pigeons. If you do not net your seedlings, the plants may have their leaves stripped by birds, which will set back the plants and significantly reduce the chances of a harvest.

The easiest types of pea to grow are mangetout and sugar snap varieties, which are eaten as whole pods rather than shelled for their peas. Mangetout varieties are eaten when the pods are formed, at about three inches or 7.5 centimetres in length, but with the pods still flat. Sugar snap varieties are eaten when the peas are fully formed inside the pods.