March is the time to grow peas here in Northern Virginia. In our family we prefer the sugar snap peas where you eat pea and pod together but shelling peas and snow peas are also started during March’s cool weather.
St. Patrick’s Day is my cue to soak the seeds in water overnight, insert in cone shaped coffee filters (could have used paper towels too), and place in zipped plastic bags. I left them on a shelf, I did not put them under grow lights. Within two days, the seeds germinated. After a few days, when it was necessary for the shoots to receive sunlight, I planted them outside about 4 inches apart. Planting them when they have germinated as opposed to planting seeds makes them able to withstand the cold soil temperatures. Last year, we picked them almost every day when the peas had expanded enough to make the pods plump – hence – snap when you bit them or bent them. They were so sweet, we ate them raw as the vegetable portion of dinner.
Pea plants are light in weight and their small tendrils need to wrap around thin nylon, string, or wire. In the beginning, you may have to “train” them to wrap around the nylon or unwrap them if they find a nearby plant but eventually they learn to wrap up and create a pretty green screen.
Another great thing about peas is that the flowers are edible. They are great in green salads, they can be added as garnish to pea soup or tomato soup, and they can even be used to decorate cupcakes. Just remember, if you pick the flower, you won’t get the pea. But then, plant more peas!
There is no need to soak seed prior to planting. They soak as much as they need to in moist soil. People believe that they germinate sooner, but they really don’t. If they germinate two days sooner, it is only because they soaked for two days. If they germinate four days sooner, it is only because they soaked for four days. It all comes out the same. The seed are less likely to be damaged while dry, and unused dry seed can be saved for sowing later. Once soaked, they must be sown.