Peas are the perfect vegetable to grow in a container garden. They grow quickly and don’t need much attention but will yield a surprisingly large harvest for a little bit of effort. The must-haves when it comes to growing peas are full sunlight and moist soil. Peas prefer cool conditions, so planting them early in the season is your best bet for a plentiful harvest. Once the weather begins to warm, your peas will stop producing. At that point, you can pull them up and start a different heat-loving vegetable in the same container.
Peas take between 60 and 70 days to grow to maturity from seeds. So if your growing season is long enough, it might be possible to plant an early crop for a late spring harvest, convert your planter to another fast-growing vegetable for the heat of summer, and then plant a second pea crop in late summer for a fall harvest.
Some favorite types of peas for container gardening include:
- Sugar snap peas
- English peas (including the 'Little Marvel', 'Tom Thumb', and 'Early Frosty' varietals)
- Snow peas
Equipment / Tools
- Garden trowel
- Garden gloves
- Large planting container with drainage holes
- Plastic screening
- Potting soil
- Fertilizer (if needed)
- Pea seeds
- Legume inoculant (optional)
- Support structure
Prepare Your Container
Cut a piece of plastic screening that's large enough to cover the drainage 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 porous landscape fabric to cover the drainage hole.
If your container is very large, you can fill the bottom third with empty, clean plastic containers, soda bottles, milk jugs, or anything that will take up space without impeding water flow. This can save money on potting soil and make your container lighter should you have to move it. Separate the soil from your filler material by cutting plastic screening or porous landscape fabric and laying it on top of the filler before adding soil. This makes cleanup at the end of the season much easier.
Fill Your Container With Potting Mix
Pour potting mix into your container, making sure to stop filling at least 3 inches from the container rim. If your potting soil doesn’t have fertilizer already including in its mixture, add in a general, all-purpose formula. Keep in mind that peas don't need much fertilizer—if you use too much, 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 your container, smooth out the soil, so it is relatively flat but not compacted.
Plant Your Pea Seeds
Though it's not mandatory, treating your pea seeds with a legume inoculant will produce a bigger pea yield and healthier plants. For faster germination, you can soak your seeds in water overnight. Then, while they're still wet, shake them in a bag with the inoculant.
Sprinkle your pea seeds generously and evenly onto the surface of the soil. With the flat part of your hand, press them onto the surface of the soil, and then add 1 to 2 inches of soil on top of the seeds. (Make sure not to add more than that, or the peas might have trouble germinating.) Water your container deeply with a watering can or a hose nozzle set to a gentle spray.
Set Up a Trellis
Most pea varietals are climbing plants, so they will need some type of trellis or support structures for the vines to climb. Bamboo stakes tied together at the top with twine into a triangle shape work well. Or you can place your container near a deck or railing that can serve as a "trellis" for the plants. Peas do not naturally cling very well with their tendrils, so you might have to help them get started by using wire ties to secure the stems to the structure.
Care for the Peas
As your pea seeds germinate, sprout, and begin to grow, keep the soil moist but not wet. And make sure that your containers receive at least six hours of full sunlight each day. Peas are fairly easy plants, so this is just about the only care required. Because you 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 your pea pods as they ripen. For sugar snap peas, harvest them when the pods are still young, which is when they are the most sweet and tender. When harvesting English peas that will be shelled, wait until the pods swell, letting you know that the peas inside are big and juicy. For snow peas, pick them from the plant before the peas inside become large and tough.