Companion planting refers the close planting of different species based on their ability to enhance one another's growth or offer some form of pest protection or other advantages. Sometimes this is a matter of choosing plants with different growth habits that don't compete with one another or those that have different nutrient needs that make efficient use of soil. Strategic companion planting is especially important in small gardens or wherever careful space planning is needed.
Meanwhile, peas and other legumes such as beans are good companion plants for many other vegetables because they increase the availability of nitrogen in the soil. A great many vegetables' growth is enhanced if they have peas and other legumes as close neighbors.
Best Companion Plants for Peas
For peas, the best companion plants are the ones that share their care requirements, as well as help them grow better and use your gardening space more efficiently. Harvest time does not need to be the same. Options for companion plants include:
Plants to Avoid Planting Near Peas
Plants in the allium (onion and garlic) family are not good partners for peas because they tend to stunt the growth of peas. Avoid planting these plants near peas:
Peas are annual vegetable plants, so they have to be planted anew each year. They are cool-weather plants, so around spring is best for planting time. Conventional wisdom says to plant pea seeds outdoors by St. Patrick's Day, though this really works only in Zone 5 and higher. A better rule is to plant them outdoors about a month before the last predicted frost in your area. The seed packet will provide additional information on how long it takes the seeds to germinate, depending on soil temperature.
Peas are not particular about the soil they are in, but they prefer a fertile, well-draining medium. They have a more difficult time thriving in heavy clay soil. Because pea plants often do not survive to transplant, it is best to start them as seeds directly in the garden bed. Plant in full sun for best pea production. Peas need little care once they are established. A deep watering weekly should be enough, but do not let the plants dry out as that diminishes pod production.
The key to knowing when the peas are ready for harvesting is in the pod. If it is bright green and round with a bit of a shine, it is ripe. A dull green color means that you have missed the pod's prime. Pea plants are relatively fragile, so be careful when you snap off the pods. Harvesting frequently encourages production.
As with most vegetables, peas from the garden are best when they are freshly picked. If you cannot use them right away, they will keep in the refrigerator for about five days. If you want to store them longer, freezing is the best option. Peas can also be dried for long-term storage. They lose some flavor but still can make a tasty addition to winter soups and stews.