Supporting Pea Plants

I took a chance this spring and planted shelling peas, beets, lettuce and spinach just after Easter. I couldn’t help myself — we had a week of warm weather and I had the spring planting bug. And then it snowed.

Miraculously the seeds survived and now, ten weeks later, we’re enjoying fresh spinach and lettuce in our salads, and we snacked our first pea pods last week.

A friend recently asked about how to keep pea plants from flopping over, so I thought I’d share some tricks I’ve learned.

Peas prefer to climb so the plant doesn’t get too wet from resting on the soil. It’s best to put a trellis in place when you plant, but you can still add support if they’re already growing.

Here are a few suggestions to keep those peas growing vertically.

Pea teepee

One option is to make a teepee which can make a fun play area for the kids. (This would need to be done before planting.)

I made a teepee using some branches that were about 7′ long. I anchored the end of four branches into a 4′ x 4′ garden box and used an uncoated twine to tie them together at the top. I wish I had gone a bit larger, perhaps a 6′ x 6′ box so there would be a more wiggle room inside for the kids.

I wove the twine around the teepee to give the peas tendrils something to grab to climb. The bottom most twine should be about 2″ from the soil. My teepee is now in year three and I had to replace the twine because it was getting brittle.

If the peas are growing the wrong way, as mine generally do, gently move the plant’s tendrils and try to get them to wrap around the twine. Be very careful though, the plants don’t like to be bent and will snap easily.

If you have plants already growing and a teepee is out of the question for this year, you can put a vertical trellis near the plant to provide something for them to climb. You could use a tomato cage or a make your own trellis with two bamboo garden stakes (or branches) with twine woven between the two.

Pea trellis

Here is an example of one way you could make a trellis using bamboo. This is from the blog Garden Therapy.

Some pea varieties can grow to 7′, so be sure you give them something tall enough to climb.

More resources: Cornell has a great resource guide for growing vegetables. Here is their page on growing peas.

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