If you’re new to growing peas this year, by now, you’re noticing they’re getting pretty tall. And you’re probably scratching your head and thinking, “I wonder if these need a trellis or something?”
Whether or not to trellis peas is a matter of what kind of peas you are growing. If it’s bush peas, then no, a trellis isn’t necessary, though they can be beneficial in some instances.
Growing vining peas? Then the answer is yes. A trellis will be very helpful indeed.
When you buy your peas at the beginning of the season, be sure to read the seed packet to find out what you will be growing in your garden.
This leads us to the question, will peas climb on their own?
Just watch them, and you will quickly discover that peas are proficient crawlers and climbers.
Take a look at this current mess of peas in our no-dig garden:
They are all over the place looking for support. And finding it among each other as well as weeds that will stay until the pea harvest is over. To remove those weeds now would make the precious peas fall right over, and then disaster would strike.
Peas can achieve this ever-growing expansion by sending out side shoots, otherwise known as tendrils. The tendrils wrap around anything they touch, not limited to other plants, strings, fences or even mulch.
Are Pea Tendrils Edible?
Before we get onto the actual trellising bit, I’d like you to know that not only are pea tendrils edible, they are quite delicious.
They taste much like the pea pod itself and can be eaten raw, provided they are fresh or cooked to soften them a bit. Adding pea tendrils to your garden stir-fry will definitely elevate your homestead fine dining to a new level.
To buy them from the store isn’t an option for most, if any, of us, yet when you have a pea patch in the garden, all you have to do is pluck a few here and there to spice up your meal.
How about a pea and pea shoot salad with spring onions and mint for starters?
If you haven’t worked up the courage to bite into a pea tendril, make this the summer that you do so. Happiness and satisfaction will ensue.
Did you know that pea leaves are edible too?
Have you ever thought that there must be more to eat in your garden? Naturally, there are many fine weeds that are both edible as well as enjoyable. Tomorrow we are putting goosefoot leaves (Chenopodium album) in our cheesy pasta with bacon and pickled green tomatoes on the side.
But what I’m really questioning here is: are you embracing the nose-to-tail concept of the vegetable world? Maybe it would be called shoot-to-root or something like that, I’m not really sure.
And now I know that you can eat pea leaves too. You learn something new every day!
The thought had occurred to me out in the garden, so I searched online to be sure, and yes, it appears that pea greens are amazing. Now I need to steam and season them with some balsamic vinegar, served over a bed of cornmeal.
Don’t forget to eat some pea flowers as well, for curiosity’s sake.
Enough talk of making oneself hungry; let’s get to a few reasons you might want to trellis your peas.
Reasons to Trellis Peas
So, if you’ve planted a packet of vining peas, then you’ll want to think about a trellis from the very beginning. If you’re reading this too late, there’s always next year. Or you can wiggle something between the plants and hope for the best.
I’m sure those tendrils will be happy for anything to climb on.
Here are a handful of reasons to consider trellising your peas:
- Vertical gardening gives higher yields in less space. More homegrown food will always make you feel like a winner.
- Aesthetics. Trellises made from quality materials are not only perfunctory, but beautiful.
- Trellises make growing a bit tidier. You can guide plants to where you want them to grow, not allowing them to latch onto other plants, as noted above.
- Growing up (trellising) gives plants more airflow between the fruiting pods and leaves. In turn, this helps to prevent certain fungal growth and/or diseases.
- Allowing vines to grow upwards will help to prevent slug damage.
- Harvesting is easy-peasy when the pods are off the ground.
All that being said, make sure you know how to harvest peas correctly, so as not to damage the rest of the growing plant. Be sure to harvest them in the morning, as soon as the dew has dried, holding the vine with one hand and pulling with the other. There’s an art to this, you’ll get the hang of it quickly.
Trellis Options for Growing Peas
Peas are in the lightweight division, especially when compared to squashes and heavyset tomatoes. So they won’t be needing a heavy-duty trellis.
It’s enough to make a rustic trellis out of branches for your climbing peas. Just remember to make your trellis tall enough, as some peas will extend to heights of 3 to 6 feet. Again, the seed packet, your garden journal or plain old experience will tell you how tall they could get.
If you want something easier and more ready-made than that, grab a tomato cage and use it for your peas when you plant them. Be sure to turn that cage upside down because it will be heavier at the base.
Chicken wire makes a great base netting for a vertical trellis. You don’t even need to keep them entirely vertical, you can also lean stretched-out chicken wire on a wooden frame for the peas to climb.
Netting can be made by hand with some basic weaving skills. If you strive for a natural and organic garden, you’ll likely want to choose hemp string that will hold up to the elements. When the growing season is over, you can even compost it.
Plastic netting is an alternative that’s relatively inexpensive, and like natural materials, it will have to be replaced every year. Only it will be recycled or trashed.
Stakes are another simple option. Just as you would use them for beans, you can also utilize them with peas. However, the peas may need some encouragement to spiral upwards. For that, you can gently guide them by hand.
Arches and a-frames are a bit pricier than the trellises listed above. If you choose to go with a sturdier wood or metal option, it will last for years of use.
Teepees and small lean-tos can be made from any materials you have laying around. From old window frames to hand-tied (bamboo or locally harvested) stakes, it’s easy enough to create a structure that will provide just the right amount of support.
How tall should my pea trellis be?
At the height of pea season, your snow peas may grow 4-5′ feet tall. Other varieties of peas can reach 6-8′. Make sure the size of your trellis goes along with the seeds you sow.
If you find that your peas aren’t climbing as well as they should, here’s an easy solution. Simply tie them loosely, so as not to strangle the vines, with some garden twine.
If it so happens that your trellised peas are prolific producers, how are you going to preserve the harvest? Canned, frozen or dried are the three main options. Till then, enjoy your pea leaves – it may just be the bigger part of your pea crop.