ABOUT PEAS: There are three types of peas -- snap, shell and snow -- and each is worth growing because there is simply nothing that compares to fresh peas and you simply won't be able to find them in the grocery store. In fact, peas are one of the best reasons to have a home garden! Children love to pick them and eat them right in the garden like candy! As their name suggests, shell peas must be shelled to reveal the little round jewels inside. Both Snap and Snow peas have edible pods and are used both fresh and in cooking. Children are also great at shelling. If you have grown too many peas, freeze them or make soup or another dish and freeze that. Don't forget to leave some peas on the vine to dry - either for winter use or as seed for fall sowing. And there is a surprising new discovery about peas: Eaten fresh and raw, they contain the powerful probiotic Leuconostoc mesenteroides, which enhances the immune system.
GROWING PEAS: Peas are perhaps the earliest vegetable you will sow in your garden, so preparing a bed for them in the fall makes sense. Peas like a raised bed prepared with compost. Peas are light feeders but still appreciate a well-prepared bed. Depending on your weather calendar, sow peas as early as February, March or April. Soaking overnight before planting will give them a head start. Don't forget that, as with all legumes, peas will perform better if they are "inoculated" as you plant them. As soon as you plant, also put up your pea support structure. I am fond of a simple stake and string netting which I make myself. Because many times its easier to take down the netting completely and pull off the old tendrils for the compost heap, why waste money on a commercial one only to have it destroyed each year? Just use 1" x 1" stakes to a height appropriate to the pea you will be growing (works as well for cucumbers and other light climbers). insert your two side stakes, every 2 feet then lash stakes to the top (be sure they are very securely lashed, or nail them to the top. From this uppermost structure you will tie long strings every 2-3" and let dangle and drape over the ground. Then starting at the top of the side, tie a string on the left support and loop it over each hanging string, forming a series of blocks. When you reach the next support, wrap or tie and when you reach the last support tie securely. Repeat this all the way down the side stakes and you will soon have a wonderful, strong, inexpensive pea fence. I never seem to plant enough peas, but if you have never grown them before, start modestly, because peas must be picked daily - sometimes twice daily - to keep them producing to their maximum.