Published on 03/10/15

Plant cold-tolerant peas now

By Frank M. Watson

Gardeners who can’t wait to put seeds in the soil will be glad to know that garden peas, or green peas, will grow in cool, moist weather.

Garden peas (Pisum sativum) are one of the earliest garden vegetables to reach maturity. While the plant will endure some cold weather, temperatures below 32 degrees can kill young blooms.

It is best to delay plantings until there is little danger of frost during the bloom stage. For most parts of Georgia, this means planting from January until March.

English peas can be smooth-seeded or wrinkle-seeded. Smooth seed varieties can stand more cold weather and should be used for first plantings. The smooth-seeded variety most often used in Georgia is the Early Alaska pea variety.

Wrinkle-seeded varieties produce better quality peas, but are not as cold tolerant. These varieties include Thomas Laxton, Wando, Alderman (Telephone) and Laxton's Progress peas.

To grow high quality peas, pay close attention to harvest time and pick only those pods that are fully green and well developed. And, as with most vegetables, pick the peas before they over-mature.

Seeds should be spaced 1 inch apart and 1 inch deep in rows. Yields can be increased by frequent harvests and by not damaging the vines during harvest.

English peas are legumes and require very little, if any, nitrogen fertilizer. Some gardeners use a sparing amount of nitrogen to get the crop started, but once the plants are up, the nodules should be able to produce enough nitrogen to satisfy the crop's needs.

Avoid heavy applications of fertilizer. Combined with a warm spell, this can cause plants to grow too fast. The resulting tender plants can be damaged or killed by a sudden cold snap.

For more information on growing garden peas and other vegetables, contact your local University of Georgia Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or view UGA Extension publications online at

Frank Watson is the University of Georgia Extension agent in Wilkes County, Ga.

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