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Nothing beats shelling peas. Photo - TwilightArtPictures/

Here’s a garden fact: you can never plant too many peas. Every year Justin Russell rues not having doubled his initial sowing. But not this year. Join in, plan big and follow his tips for a bumper harvest.


Peas like soil that's sweet and full of organic matter. Prior to sowing, fork in some well-rotted compost along with a handful of garden lime (if your pH is acidic), and a sprinkling of potash. Go easy on high nitrogen fertilisers as they encourage foliage at the expense of flowers.

Pea seeds are best sown directly into the garden. Choose a position in full sun, prepare the soil, and for climbing varieties, install a trellis for support. Then simply push seeds into the soil to a depth of about 3cm and a spacing of 25cm. Sow bush types in a double row so the plants can hold each other up. A tip for effective germination is to give the seed just a single, deep soaking. Excess moisture will only encourage rot.


I love pea tendrils and picking big fat squeaky peas. Photo - Gordana Sermek/



Shelling types are best picked when the pods are fat to bursting, sugarsnaps are best when full, but not overly plump, and snow peas are ready when they are crisp and firm. The secret to an extended harvest is to keep picking. As mature pods are removed the plant will bear repeat flushes of flowers.


- Pea plants need plenty of moisture to perform well. In warm, dry weather a soak every couple of days will keep the plants chugging along.

- Powdery mildew can quickly ruin an otherwise healthy crop of peas. Spray plants with potassium bicarbonate (Eco-Fungicide) or copper hydroxide (Kocide) as a preventative.


Perfect peas. Photo - v777999/



Yorkshire Hero produces tallish plants to 1.5m that smother themselves with fat pods containing superbly flavoured peas.

Massey Gem is a fast-growing bush shelling pea and heavy bearer of plump 5cm long pods. An excellent choice for frosty areas.

Yakumo grows tall, and produces highly decorative purple flowers followed by an abundance of 15cm long pods.

Sugar Ann is a wonderfully sweet sugarsnap perfect for small backyards and containers.


Text: Justin Russell 

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Author: Justin Russell