If I can grow peas in the Up On The Rooftop Balcony garden, then you can too!
Small space gardens love peas! Select one of the many varieties that are available from the tall (if you can provide trellising or stakes) to the dwarf and bush varieties depending that are perfect for patios, balconies and small gardens.
My favourite never-fail peas up here on the Balcony are Dawrf Peas Greenfeast, Snow Peas and Sugar Snap Peas AND don't forget the beautiful Sweet Peas for your floral garden and the pollinators!
Container garden peas will yield a smaller harvest than those grown in a garden bed, but they can still be plentiful with the right treatment and the nutrition is all still there. Repeat cropping makes these are good-value crop to have in a small space.
Here are the tried and tested steps for growing peas on my Balcony. Works for me and if I can do it...you can too!
There are 3 types of peas:
English Peas (Pisum sativum, var. sativum) - English peas do not have edible pods; you have to wait until fully plumped up before shelling and eating them. Shelling peas are one of the fastest maturing types of peas, with the smaller, bush varieties ready in about 50 days.
Snow Peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) - Snows peas, often referred to as Chinese pea pods, have flat edible pods; the seeds are not allowed to fill out before harvesting. Even though you do not have to wait for the peas inside to plump, snow peas tend to have the longest days to maturity of all the peas, especially the tall varieties.
Sugar Snap Peas (Pisum sativum var. marcrocarpon) - Sugar snap peas are a cross between English peas and snow peas. As with English peas, the seeds are allowed to plump up a bit. However, the pods are crisp and edible, so they do not need to be shelled and are used in recipes in the same way as snow peas.
In Sydney (adjust for your location and hemisphere)
The best time to plant peas in Sydney’s temperate zone is from April till September, when the soil temperatures are between 8-24 º C. Select a sunny spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of sunshine to grow peas and allow a good amount of growing space so that enough plants can be grown to produce an adequate yield. In Sydney, the best site should face north for optimum sunlight.
Where do you live? Wherever you are located you need to have a clear understanding of your climate/grow zone. This is essential to informing your decisions on what to plant, peas or otherwise. I have information on this topic in my blog How to Plant an Autumn Garden.
Select varieties of peas that suit your location and your garden centre or the purveyors of seeds will have a lot of information on this topic.
Peas will need full sun (6-8 hours) in frost-free conditions. Most peas are climbers so they need support as they can get up to about 2m high. There are many dwarf varieties that suit containers and I have planted these with success but I do find that some kind of support is required for even the dwarf kinds but a few sticks dotted around the pot will do nicely. You can limit the height of taller varieties by nipping out the growing tip when they are as tall as your structure allows. Create support for the potted peas with bamboo poles, trellises or stakes set into the centre of the pot. I use segments of my dog fencing supported by bamboo stakes!
Some say not to plant them any closer than 15cm to prevent young peas being overcrowded and “fighting” each other, however, because space is limited on a Balcony and particularly in a container I pack them in about 5 cm apart (!) - works ok for me. Lucky for you if you have a large container or raised garden bed or ground!
For a quick and easy container garden of peas use a very good quality potting mix from your garden centre or hardware store. I use a sprinkling of blood and bone and rock dust to enrich the prepared soil. Die-hards like me make my own potting mix using home-made compost and other amendments but when I'm out of compost, I invest in the best quality commercial potting mix that I can. Everything on my Balcony gets renewed so spent potting mix eventually gets refreshed and re-used!
If you are interested in making your own mixes which is super easy and economical in the long run, take a look at the Soil Recipe card in the webstore. The ingredients are readily available and making your own compost in your small space is totally doable.
Select a container. Almost anything will work as long as you have drainage holes (or make three to five holes with a hammer and nail) and measures a minimum of 40 cm across and depth of about 30-40cm. That's around a bag and a half of potting mix. Fill the container with soil leaving about 5 - 10 cms space at the top. Space the pea seeds about 5cm apart and 1 inch beneath the soil. Water in thoroughly and top with a 5 cm layer of mulch, like compost or or Organic pea straw or Sugar Cane mulch. Keep the seeds in a lightly shaded area until germination (9-13 days) at which time you should move them to a full sun exposure.
If you want a quick fix and don't want to wait for seed raising, just pop down to your garden centre and purchase ready to plant seedlings. I do! When my planning for succession crops has succumbed to lack of time, I will purchase a punnet of ready to go seedlings keep the plastic punnet for seed raising. Raising from seed is my preferred method because it doesn't involve the purchase of plastic!
Space the pea seeds about 5cm apart and 1 inch beneath the soil. Water in thoroughly water and top with a 5 cm layer of mulch, like compost or or Organic pea straw or Sugar Cane mulch. Keep the seeds in a lightly shaded area until germination (9-13 days) at which time you should move them to a full sun exposure.
** I use many self-wicking containers Up On The Rooftop and my range of Growbags and Waterpot ollas because they takes the guesswork out of watering and are suitable for a Balcony or small space garden.
Keep in mind that pot grown peas require more water than garden grown, possibly up to three times a day. If you are hosing or watering can watering, frequent irrigation, the nutrients are leached out from the soil, so fertilisation is key to growing healthy peas in a container.
A sprinkling of blood and bone a couple of times throughout the growing season, in addition to a drink of seaweed-based fertiliser every three weeks is more than sufficient. I make my own worm wee (well my worm farm does) and this is diluted to no specific ratio, however "they" say 10 parts water to 1 part wee and others it might be 1:1.
Overwatering, especially when peas are young, can lead to all manner of issues. An even level of moisture is required to give a constant supply to maturing pods. Peas should be watered first thing in the morning and it's important to keep the moisture away from the leaves to prevent the dreaded scourge, powdery mildew. I have a some suggestions on how I treat this scourge in my blog How To Treat Powdery Mildew in Your Small Space Garden
*** I get around watering issues in my Balcony garden by using self-wicking pots and my Waterpot ollas which means no hosing is necessary and therefore no risk of over or under watering or nutrients leaching from my carefully prepared soil! however, when the seedlings are young, surface watering is needed until the roots are established and able to draw water themselves from the Waterpot or water reservoir.
Overwatering, mildews, cold sensitivity and bird attack because they look so yummy. I have to admit that The Reverse Gardener (our trusty Cavalier) keeps birds at bay up Up On The Rooftop, but I do employ netting (that's for another Blog) when I have any concerns (my precious Blueberries are way too tempting for the birds who will ignore The Reverse Gardener come Blueberry time). Birds love to peck at your young seedlings so a little netting at that stage will be a real help.
Most peas, including dwarf varieties, are ready to harvest between 11 – 14 weeks. Harvest frequently and continuously for a prolonged crop… the more you pick the more they fruit! Expect 6 weeks harvest from snow peas and 3 weeks from garden peas.
Companion Planting (love-filled relationships)
Suitable Companions: Beetroot, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Corn, Eggplant, Lettuce, Potato, Sage and Cucumber
Unsuitable Companions (unhappy relationships): Chives, Garlic, Onions and Shallots
If you want quick, starter pea pack then take a look at the Peas Pack that gives provide you with the instant pack to start growing!