Few garden vegetables are as classic as the humble pea. They’re also one of the easiest plants to grow from seed!
You don’t need any fancy equipment or detailed process to successfully start peas from seed. Just sow them directly into your garden bed and wait for the sprouts to appear.
With that said, pea seeds don’t have the best germination rate. How many pea seeds per hole you plant will determine whether or not your garden produces a bountiful harvest this year.
When growing peas, you’ll want to plant at least 2 seeds per hole. For the best results, I recommend planting as many as 4 seeds per hole!
Types Of Peas To Start From Seed
The first step in growing garden peas is to select exactly which type you want to plant! There are three extremely popular types of peas worth considering for your veggie patch:
English Peas (Pisum sativum)
The most defining characteristic of English peas is that you cannot eat the entire pod. Instead, the peas must be shelled before consumption.
While the inedible pod is less convenient than other popular pea types, English peas tend to reach maturity much faster than snow or sugar snap peas!
You can grow English peas with or without support for climbing. However, most varieties produce more pods when allowed to climb.
Snow Peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum)
Snow peas are frequently seen in Asian cuisine. The pods of snow peas are 100% edible, so there’s no need to shell the peas before use.
Snow peas are harvested before reaching maturity, so the peas tend to be smaller and flatter than other types. Surprisingly, snow peas still require more time from seed to harvest than English peas.
You’ll almost always need to provide a trellis or similar support when growing snow peas.
Sugar Snap Peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon)
What do you get when you cross an English pea with a snow pea? A sugar snap pea!
Sugar snap peas are incredibly popular with home gardeners (probably because they combine the best of the previous two types).
Like snow peas, the pods of sugar snap peas are entirely edible. You can utilize sugar snap peas in the kitchen just as you would snow peas.
On the other hand, sugar snap peas are tastiest when fully mature. So you get the plump quality of English peas minus the inedible pod.
They aren’t as cold-hardy as snow or English peas. However, they tolerate heat and humidity much better. Be sure to provide something for your sugar snap peas to climb.
How To Start Pea Plants From Seed
Your pea plants will be happiest in full sun. Take this into account when planning out your vegetable garden for the year.
Select a location where you can easily install poles (for bush varieties) or a trellis (for climbing varieties).
You can take advantage of your climbing peas’ height by planting them alongside vegetables that tolerate partial shade. Since the peas will quickly grow above the surrounding plants, they’ll still receive plenty of sun throughout the day.
Most peas thrive in loose soil containing plenty of organic matter. Prep your garden bed by adding compost or another organic fertilizer to the soil.
Prior to planting seeds, consider loosening the top several inches of soil. This will make it easier for young pea seedlings to develop healthy roots.
Pea seeds should be placed in holes at least 1 to 2 inches deep. Seeds planted any shallower may fall victim to hungry birds and other critters.
Pea seeds have a fairly low germination rate, so be sure to place at least 2 seeds in each hole. To ensure a full garden, you can safely plant up to 4 pea seeds per hole and thin the seedlings that emerge.
Pea plants can be grown very close to each other!
Sow seeds approximately 2 to 3 inches apart. Once seedlings reach a couple of inches tall, you can thin peas to be about 4 inches apart.
Most garden peas readily self-pollinate. This means your harvested peas will be true to type, and you can collect seeds for future planting without worrying about strange hybrids.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for different types of peas to cross-pollinate. To prevent this in your own garden, it’s best to leave at least 10 feet of space between different varieties.
(Of course, you can always use the space between your peas to hold other vegetables!)
When Is The Best Time To Plant Peas?
Peas are cold-season vegetables and should be planted as soon as the soil is workable.
Pea seedlings can tolerate light frost, so it’s safe to start planting up to 8 weeks before your area’s final frost date. It’s much better to start sowing pea seeds too early than to start too late!
Many gardeners opt to sow pea seeds every 3 weeks or so throughout spring. This extends the harvest time considerably!
Starting Pea Seeds Indoors
Starting vegetable seeds indoors is a great way to make the most of your area’s growing season. However, peas tend to do best when sown directly into the ground.
If you must start your pea seeds indoors — this is sometimes the case in super cold climates or when there is an unseasonably cold spring — then I recommend using biodegradable peat pots.
These seed-starting containers can be transplanted straight into the ground. So you don’t need to handle the pea plant and risk damaging its delicate roots.
How To Collect Pea Seeds
You can purchase pea seeds from nearly any garden center.
Meanwhile, peas are one of the easiest vegetables to collect seeds from yourself.
Peas self-pollinate, so you can collect seeds even if you only have one of each type of pea in your garden!
Since the seeds are part of the pea plant we eat, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to leave some pods behind during harvest.
Ideally, you can leave the pea pods you plan to take seeds from on the plant until they completely dry out. If this doesn’t happen before the year’s first frost, however, it’s recommended that you cut the pea plant at the base and bring it indoors to continue drying.
How Long Do Pea Seeds Last?
With proper storage, pea seeds remain viable for 3 years after collection.
Allowing your pea seeds to completely dry out after collection will deter mold and improve their longevity.
Once dry, pea seeds can be kept in a paper or plastic container. The container does not need to be airtight but should be kept in a cool, dry place.
How Many Pea Seeds Per Hole – Final Thoughts
You can’t have a traditional veggie garden without a few pea plants. Plus, there are plenty of types and varieties worth growing if you have the space to spare!
Starting peas from seed is by far the best strategy. However, it’s super important to err on the side of caution and plant at least 2 seeds per hole.
If you plant just 1 seed in each hole, you risk up to 30% (or more) of your peas failing to sprout. And that’s a recipe for a disappointing harvest later in the season!