Learning how to grow peas in the South of the United States has been a process for me. I’ve tried sticking to the rule of thumb – planting the seeds so many weeks before the average last frost date – to no avail. Why?
Spring in the South is nearly non-existent.
If we have a mild winter, summer will begin early in April, bringing temperatures that cool-loving peas don’t like. If we have a cold to normal winter, we’ll get a few pleasant days in March and April, but much of March will be chilly and April will heat up disproportionately quickly.
In other words, Southern weather doesn’t cooperate well for growing the cool-weather crop of peas, which can take a light frost, but despise temperatures above eighty degrees.
If you plant them out too early, a hard frost could kill the vines. If you plant them out on time, the vines won’t produce well and, because the heat stresses them, might attract aphids.
This year, however, I finally discovered the trick to growing peas in the South. I can’t guarantee that it will provide you with weeks of production. But, you’ll get better quality peas for longer.
Read to learn the trick of how to grow peas in the South…successfully? Here you go:
Start them indoors, in pots.
What’s that? You say that in every vegetable gardening book you’ve ever read – all 132 of them – every author wrote that you should always direct-sow peas into the garden and never start them indoors? Me, too! How about we form a club? We’ll call it the, “The Big Fat Pea Lie” club.
Because the truth is, you can start peas in pots indoors. But you can use any old plant-starting pot. You need to get some long pots. One viewer of my YouTube channel suggested using eggnog cartons, and then when she goes to plant the peas she can simply cut the bottom off the cartons and stick them in the ground.
But because peas grow tall, their roots grow deep. So find pots that are at least six inches tall.
Fill the pots with a nice potting mix, and sow the seeds in them six to eight weeks before the average last frost date. After they germinate, count four weeks. At the end of the fourth week, you should be at a couple weeks before the last average frost date (or a bit more). Plant them in the ground.
Now, be smart and watch the weather forecast. If a freak late Canadian cold front is going to move in and bring lows around twenty degrees (F), wait until it passes before planting out the pea seedlings.
Growing peas in the South works best this way, because they now have a chance to come to maturity before daytime temperatures rise above eighty degrees. Thus, you will have a lot more pods to pick.
Happy growing. To make your gardening efforts easier, grab a copy of my book, How To Grow Vegetables Without Losing Your Mind.