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Peas - varieties, sowing and growing

Really struggled with getting peas going this year! Two sowings of Kelvedon Wonder in March failed. I tried Terrain later in May but there was a disappointing germination rate.

I've tried pre-germination, grow tubes and direct planting but to no avail. Being a sucker for punishment I sowed, direct, a row of Meteor on the 3rd November (don't ask!)

My soil is a neutral, fairly free draining type, probably formed by river sediment on an old flood plain and we are located in Devon so temperatures are mild to warm and rainfall is above the national average.

Any advice on reliable varieties or hints and tips for sowing and growing would be great.


  • Kelvedon Wonder is always reliable for me, and my early ones came up and cropped well. The later ones were  not so good, they didn't like the heat and they needed water that I couldn't give them. Is it possible that mice or birds could have got your March sown ones?
    Another I grow is Douce Provence. A row sown at the same time as the second lot of KW gave me a couple of pickings of mangetouts, despite the weather and drought.
    I didn't bother to plant Feltham First or Carouby de Maussane this year, because I had no way to water them, but they have done well for me in the past and I have grown sugarsnaps too.
    My soil is clay/loam, fairly acid  and plenty of rain usually. It tends to be cool as we are high up and there can be late snow, so I don't normally plant much before mid April, but I don't do anything special, just make a drill and bung 'em in :)
  • I find Hurst Greenshaft to be a reliable pea starting them in short lengths of gutter and transplanting them by sliding into place when they are about 4" high. They don't always germinate depending on conditions in the greenhouse but when it is evident that they haven't I sow again, at least that way I can negate the threat of mouse or slug attack.
  • NollieNollie Posts: 6,744
    Have you had success in the past with peas or is this your first year growing them? Where they fresh seeds or last year’s? Just wondering if there is anything different...

    Mice can eat the lot so it’s possible that is your problem - I think they were responsible for half of one of my rows going this year, tho the Cat Penthouse has an exit right by the veg patch, so the felines were definitely napping on the job if that was the case. I just resowed (the peas, not the cats) and they were fine.

    Maybe your soil is a bit too free draining and needs more organic matter dug in to aid water retention? Not that peas need the best soil, but they do need plenty of water. 

    I don’t grow many now, as I prefer to grow sugar snaps/mange tout, but KW has done fine for me in the past as has Douce de Provence.
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • SkandiSkandi Posts: 1,615
    I have horrible issues germinating peas in the ground, so much so I've given up. I've tried all through the year outside and I get 30% if I am lucky for some reason the only ones that germinate well outside are sugar snap peas, they do fine. Once any of the peas have germinated they do really well, it getting the little '$!*'s so start that's the problem!
    Now I just  put them into old meat/mushroom trays with seed compost and keep them inside until they are 2-3" tall, works for me!
  • Thanks for all the suggestions and for sharing your own experiences.  We love fresh peas so I'm going to persevere!  My losses have been very big when planting out; when using grow tubes/root trainers and when attempting pre-germination.  I think that I will try a nice deep seed tray and sow a large number as a contingency for low germination rates and this would overcome losses to mice as well.

    I have had success several years ago but unfortunately, wasn't keeping my garden diary then so have no record of the variety that I used.  Another factor may be my seed storage technique possibly so I'm going to be more rigorous about keeping them in a dark, dry and cool place and not hanging on to them for too long.  One to two years maximum?  Another question that I ask myself is whether seed viability is as good as it was a few years ago?
  • NollieNollie Posts: 6,744
    Do you soak your seeds before sowing, scarify? That’s supposed to help germination, although I’ve never done it. I suspect quality of seed supplier and freshness of seed are more important than variety. I have always used organic gardening catalogue seeds, apart from this year, when I tried Chilterns and germination rates across the board were much poorer, but the broad beans the worst. Others swear by Chilterns but I will be returning to OGC next year. With the latter, seeds kept in a dark cool place we’re fine the next year, but I’ve never used any older than that.
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 7,705
    edited November 2018
    I've never had much success with sowing peas outdoors. If the mice don't get them, they tend to just rot in the soil - very low germination rate.

    Starting them off in the potting shed works fairly well - but again variable germination rate.

    I actually had the best results scattering seeds on wet kitchen roll on a plate. This was kept damp on the kitchen window sill. They nearly all sprouted within 4-5 days.

    As soon as the sprouts started to emerge, I planted them into fairly deep (2-3") seed modules - two per module - and allowed them to germinate properly in the potting shed. Planted out when the plants were about 3" high.

    100% transplant / success rate!

    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • Nollie,

    Seed supplier, storage and age are things that I want to look at.  I tried Chilterns and found a similar disappointing germination rate so I've not ordered from them recently.  I've got the Organic Gardening Catalogue 2019 and will try and use this as much as I can.  I've found Kings on-line are well priced and prompt on delivery plus having good viability when sowed.

    For storage, I've previously kept seeds in a set of (translucent) plastic drawers in our kitchen so I've probably failed on 'cool' and 'light' but OK for 'dry'.  None of them germinated in their packets.  As for age then I've found that the "sow by" dates on the packets doesn't always work out well in practice as abiding by them doesn't guarantee a good germination rate but I hate wasting seed!

    I may try and find room in our fridge for the seeds (in an air-tight plastic box) or move them to our small masonry outhouse, which keeps relatively cool.
  • Topbird,

    Thanks for the post and the interesting take on pre-germination.  I tried this with my (possibly) dodgy seed and found about one-quarter germinated but annoyingly over quite a few days so I got some well-sprouted ones and some just germinating in the same batch.  I'll try again with fresh seed and also move them as they germinate.  I'm also going to try a larger batch in a deeper seed tray and allow for a contingency for failure and may soak them as Nollie suggested.

    Yes, and agreed, once you have them actively growing, transplanting them is very reliable. 
  • NollieNollie Posts: 6,744
    No idea if it makes any difference to my normally good germination rate, but my seed box is a sturdy wooden box with a slide lid (like an oversized, old-fashioned pencil box, some fancy wines and champagnes come in a similar box). It’s lightproof but being wood must have a degree of breathability and lives in a cool, dark outhouse, never the fridge. Of course it could be my earlier, warmer springs -  I sow earlier than the UK and the season for peas is concurrently much shorter,  so possibly swings and roundabouts there. Good luck for next year!
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
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