Picture this - you have been growing peas just to see what all the vegetable growing fuss is about. When you harvest and taste your first snow peas you suddenly see the light and realize just how limp and pathetic bought ones are. Never will grocery shopping be the same.
There are many varieties of peas and they fall into two groups:
Peas belong to the Legume family along with beans, lentils, clover and peanuts, to name a few. Legumes have the ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen to nitrate in the soil via partnership with a type of bacteria. These bacteria are found in the root nodules of the plant. Nitrate will enrich and fertilize the soil so that subsequent crops will have less need for added feeding.
Starting: Sow seeds in moist soil where they are to grow, about 5 cm apart. Don't water until the seedlings come up. Peas germinate in one to three weeks.
Soil: Well drained compost or loam. Peas like the soil to be ph neutral or slightly alkaline.
Climate: Peas enjoy cooler weather but they don't tolerate frost. Start planting peas in early spring in colder climates, but where the climate is warmer it's better to plant in autumn.
Watering: Over watering can become an issue. Pea plants attract fungus and rot easily. Avoid watering the leaves.
Fertilizing: Keep in mind that legumes manufacture their own nitrate, which is a component of fertilizing mixes, manure and compost. Fresh fertilizer can also burn the roots easily.
Harvesting peas: Pick often to encourage more cropping. If you're growing snow peas or sugar snap peas they'll need to be harvested before they get too big, but for most other varieties you should wait until the pod has filled out and looks crowded with peas. When vine is finished, don't forget to dig it into the soil so that it can provide nutrients for the next crop.
Containers: Containers at least 15 cm deep are suitable for growing peas. Choose dwarf plant varieties.
Shady areas: I haven't had much luck with growing peas in the shade. The environment tends to be too moist and they soon get attacked by fungus and die.
Pests and diseases: Birds enjoy the taste of pea seedlings. Slugs and snails likewise. Mildew can be a problem, so ensure there is enough air circulation. Thrips and aphids can infest the pea plant. In Europe (and a few other locations) watch out for the pea leaf weevil, whose larvae munch on root nodules while the mature insects attack leaves.
Support: The climbing pea plants need support of some kind to thrive, unless your plant is of a dwarf variety. It's easy to build a pea trellis from a multitude of materials. You can also plant them next to a fence where they can climb. Make sure the plant's tendrils can grab hold of something like wire or string.