How to Grow Peas in a Container Garden

pea plant

Rev Stan/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Overview
  • Working Time: 45 mins
  • Total Time: 0 mins
  • Yield: One container
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $50

Peas are the perfect vegetable to grow in a container garden. They grow quickly and don’t need much attention. However, peas do need full sunlight and the soil needs to be kept moist, which can be more difficult when plants are growing in a container garden. Peas prefer cool conditions, so plant them early in the season. When the weather begins to get too warm, peas will stop producing. Once they do stop, you can pull them up and start a different heat-loving vegetable in the same container.

Peas take 60 to 70 days to grow to maturity from seeds, so if your growing season is long enough, it may be possible to plant an early crop for late spring harvest, convert your planter to another fast-growing vegetable for the heat of summer, then plant a second pea crop in late summer for a fall harvest.

Some favorite kinds of peas for container gardens include:

  • Sugar snap
  • English peas, 'Little Marvel,' 'Tom Thumb' and 'Early Frosty'
  • Snow pea 'Oregon Sugar Pod"
Garden supplies on a deck
Kerry Michaels

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Garden trowel
  • Work gloves

Materials

  • Large planting container with drainage holes
  • Plastic screening
  • Potting soil
  • Fertilizer (if needed)
  • Pea seeds
  • Legume inoculant (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prepare a Container

    Cut a piece of plastic screening, big enough to cover the hole in the bottom of the container you've chosen. If you don't have screening, you can also use a coffee filter or a piece of paper towel to cover the drainage hole.

    Gardening Tip

    If your container is very large, you can fill the bottom one-third with clean plastic containers, soda bottles, or anything that will take up some space but won't impede water flow. This can save you money on ​potting soil and make your container lighter. If you do fill the bottom, separate your soil from your filler material by cutting plastic screening and putting it over the filler before adding potting soil. This trick makes clean-up at the end of the season much easier. Don't put gravel in the bottom of your pot; this oft-advised method really doesn't work.

  2. Fill With Prepared Potting Mix

    Fill your container with potting mix, making sure to leave at least 3 inches to the rim. If your potting soil doesn’t have fertilizer, mix some in, though peas don’t need much. If you use too much fertilizer, the nitrogen (a common ingredient in most fertilizers) will harm production and the plants will produce large pods with small or no peas inside them. After filling the container, smooth out the soil so it is relatively flat, but not compacted.

  3. Plant the Seeds

    Though it's not mandatory, treating the pea seeds with a legume inoculant will give you a bigger pea yield and healthier plants. Also, for faster germination, you can soak your peas in water overnight and then while they are still wet, shake them in a bag with the inoculant.

    Sprinkle peas generously and evenly onto the surface of the soil. With the flat part of your hand, press them onto the surface of the soil. Then, add an additional 1 to 2 inches of soil over the top of the seeds. Make sure not to add more soil than that, or the peas might have trouble germinating.

    Water deeply with a watering can with rose attachment or a hose nozzle set for a gentle spray.

  4. Provide a Trellis

    Most peas are climbers, so you will need some type of trellis. Bamboo stakes tied together with twine in a teepee shape will work well. Or even a deck railing can serve as a trellis for the pea plants. Peas do not naturally cling very well with their tendrils, so you may have to help get them started by using wire ties to secure the stems to the trellis structure

  5. Care for the Plants

    As the seeds germinate and sprout and the seedlings begin to grow, keep the soil moist but not wet, and make sure that your peas are getting full sun. Peas are fairly easy-care plants, so this is just about the only care required. Since you have fertilized the potting soil before planting the seeds, no additional feeding is necessary. Peas are legumes that naturally "fix" nitrogen into the soil by absorbing it from the air.

    Harvest the pea pods as they ripen. For the sweetest and most tender sugar snaps that are often eaten as pods, harvest them when the pods are still young. When harvesting English peas that will be shelled, wait until the pods swell, letting you know that the peas inside are big and juicy. Pick snow peas before the peas get too large and tough.

    Harvesting peas in a garden
    Elva Etienne/ Moment/ Getty Images