Sowing peas: timing & step-by-step instructions


With a passion for growing installed at an early age, I have always been happiest outdoors in nature. After training as a professional gardener and horticultural therapist, I currently run horticultural therapy and community kitchen gardens in the UK, helping others access the many physical and mental health benefits of growing vegetables, fruit and plants.

Favourite fruit: apples and pears
Favourite vegetable: asparagus

With their sweet and delicious taste, nothing quite beats freshly picked homegrown peas. Discover how and when to sow peas in your garden.

Young pea plants in soil
Peas can be sown direct into the ground or undercover [Photo: eukukulka/]

Being easy to grow and so much more flavoursome than when bought, it is no wonder that peas (Pisum sativum) are a favourite of home growers. Due to their sweet taste, peas are also a great crop to introduce children to the delights of growing your own. Read on to find out all there is to know about when and how to sow peas seeds for the best harvest.

Sowing peas: when to start

There is a wide range of pea varieties available to grow at home. You can choose between the common garden pea that you shell before eating or mangetout and sugar snap types that are picked and eaten when they are young. Within these varieties, some cultivars are less hardy than others and dictate when they can be sown.

If you are wondering when to sow peas, you can either sow peas in the autumn or from spring to early summer. That said, peas are generally sown anytime between February and June in the UK. Depending on the cultivar, you can sow less-hardy peas directly outdoors from March until June but only once the soil has warmed up to around 10 °C. You can also sow peas undercover from February to give them a head start. Sowing peas indoors can be particularly beneficial if the weather is cold and wet, as the seeds may fail to germinate if the soil is too cold and/or rot in wet conditions. There are also a few pea varieties that are hardier, such as ‘Douce Provence’ that you can sow outdoors in October or November to crop early the following year.

Peas are a favourite of mice, and the seeds can easily fall prey to them, especially when sown outdoors. Sowing peas undercover can help protect your plants from not only field mice (Apodemus sylvaticus), but slugs and snails (Gastropoda) as well. You can generally harvest peas around 11 to 15 weeks after sowing. However, for an early summer crop, you can sow peas undercover in the autumn to overwinter before planting out in the spring.

Sowing peas directly in soil
You can sow peas directly in spring once the soil has warmed up [Photo: encierro/]

Tip: for an ongoing pea harvest, sow peas successionally every 2 to 3 weeks from spring until early summer.

How to sow peas

To thrive, peas like to grow in a sunny spot and on a light and well-drained soil. To improve the soil’s fertility and structure, incorporate some garden compost or well-rotted manure a few weeks or months before planting your peas. Before sowing peas outdoors, rake the soil to a fine tilth to help ensure good seed to soil contact and encourage germination.

Typically grown in straight lines, make a drill or narrow trench 3cm deep using a hoe or broom handle. For taller cultivars, sow the peas 7 to 10cm apart in a single row, with 30cm between rows and cover with soil before watering. For shorter varieties, you can also grow peas in double rows as the pea plants will help support each other. To sow peas in a double row, sow 2 rows of peas in a wider drill, leaving 7 to 10cm between peas.

If the ground is cold, lay some clear plastic sheeting over the ground to warm the soil before sowing. After sowing, cover the seedlings with a layer of fleece to help protect them against any cold weather.

To sow peas indoors, prefill a root trainer or deep module tray with a peat-free multi-purpose compost. Our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost contains the essential nutrients to support the peas’ growth and being peat-free is good for the environment. Sow the peas individually at a depth of 4 to 5cm, water in and keep at around 15 to 18 °C. Keep the soil moist but not wet and the seeds should germinate in around 7 to 10 days.

Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
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Steps for sowing peas:

  • Prepare the ground a few weeks before planting
  • Sow seeds individually undercover in autumn or spring or direct in rows from March onwards once the soil has warmed up
  • If sowing peas outdoors, sow the seeds 7 – 10cm apart, allowing 30cm between rows
  • Sow the peas 3 – 5cm deep and cover them with soil before watering
  • Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate

When growing peas, it is important to avoid planting them and other legumes in the same place they have recently been grown, as this can lead to nutrient deficiencies in the soil and a build-up of soil-borne diseases. Instead, follow a 4-to-5-year crop rotation, which along with helping prevent pests and disease, will allow the peas to fix nitrogen back into the soil for any following brassicas to benefit from. As a legume, peas are similar to French beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) and runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) and are classed together for the purposes of crop rotation.

pea seedlings growing indoors
Peas can be sown indoors to give them a head start [Photo: Yuliia Chugai/]

Caring for growing peas

Once the indoor sown peas are 15 to 20cm tall, gradually harden them off before planting them outside in spring at a spacing of 7 to 10cm apart.

In general, all but the most dwarf pea varieties require a support or climbing aid. For shorter peas, you can support them by placing pea sticks or short branches into the soil for them to climb upon. However, taller cultivars, especially those that grow more than 1m will require a more robust and higher climbing aid. You can make pea supports using posts and netting, check out our other article for more details.

Peas grow best when planted in a sheltered location that receives full sun. Once established, peas generally only need watering during dry or hot spells. Nevertheless, you can water pea plants as the flowers appear and the pods begin to form to help ensure a bountiful crop. When watering peas, avoid wetting the foliage where possible, as this can encourage fungal disease.

Peas do not require any supplementary fertiliser when grown in the ground, as they are a relatively light feeder. However, any container-grown peas may benefit from being given a high-potash feed as the flowers form. You can use our Plantura Liquid Tomato Food for feeding peas grown in a container, as it contains potassium to help support pod formation and is easy to apply at the time of watering.

Liquid Tomato Food, 800ml
Liquid Tomato Food, 800ml
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  • Perfect for tomatoes & other vegetables
  • Liquid fertiliser for healthy plant growth & an abundant harvest
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Birds, especially pigeons, can damage pea plants and reduce any potential harvest to nothing. Cover your peas with netting after planting them out to protect them.

String climbing aid for peas
Pea supports are required for all but the dwarf varieties [Photo: Lampas Azami/]

Once your peas are sown, you can expect to be harvesting them about 3 months later. Check out our other article for tips and tricks on when and how to harvest peas.