If you are tired of winter and just can’t stand it any longer, try planting peas in early March. Peas are tolerant of cool weather and one of the first garden crops that can be planted. Peas need to get off to an earlier start than other crops in order to beat the heat and produce well.
Peas require a soil temperature of around 40 degrees to begin germination and current soil temperatures in our Central Kansas region are averaging in the upper 30s to near 40. Even if it isn’t quite warm enough for germination, peas can remain in the soil until the temperature is right and will begin the germination process as soon as our soils warm up just a little more.
Types of peas
There are several types of peas that can be grown in Kansas. Probably the most common is the shelling pea (peas must be removed from the pod before eating) and the old standard in this group is Little Marvel. Though Little Marvel is still on our recommended list, we have a number of others that do well including Green Arrow, Knight, Maestro, Burpeeana and Mr. Big. All of these are early maturing types that allow us to harvest a crop before the hot weather arrives and stops production.
Edible pod peas
Snow peas are those commonly used in stir-fry that have a crisp edible pod. Recommended varieties include Dwarf Grey Sugar and Mammoth Melting Sugar.
Sugar snap peas are popular for fresh eating, pod and all. These are another type that resemble shelling peas but have a thick, fleshy pod and can be eaten fresh, steamed or cooked. Like snow peas, they are not shelled but eaten pod and all. We recommend Sugar Bon, Sugar Ann, Super Sugar Snap and Sugar Sprint.
Planting and growing peas
Peas should be planted shallow, about one-half inch deep, to encourage rapid germination and emergence. Seed in the row should be spaced 1.5 to 2 inches apart. Many people often plant two rows 6 to 8 inches apart so the floppy plants can support one another. For some older varieties, this may not be enough. They may need trellising to support the growing vines. Any sort of fencing, wire, or even thick string can be used for peas to climb and remain upright as they grow.
Pease require regular watering during dry weather since the root system remains rather shallow. Fencing may also be needed to keep rabbits away. It isn’t uncommon to find an entire row snipped off by a rabbit looking for an early spring snack.
Leafy and cole crops not far behind
Leafy greens such as leaf lettuce and kale and cole crops such as cabbage are not far behind peas in their time of planting. These crops are often planted in mid to late March along with many other cool season crops. The calendar below is helpful in planning for when to plant cool season vegetables here in Kansas.