Fruit and Vegetables

Pea - Pisum sativum

Pea - Pisum sativum

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Pea is a species that can be grown in the open field. In its early stages of development it resists temperatures around zero, while in the growth phase the optimum temperature ranges from 10 to 20 degrees.
It adapts to medium-textured and well-drained soils. It does not tolerate watery stagnation, which favors rottenness, or scarcity of water, which favors an early flowering and a poor product. Its cultivation can begin in the first days of March. Sowing is carried out in rows (the seeds and rows must be spaced about 15 cm apart). To obtain harvests until August it is advisable to proceed with more sowing spaced over time between them of about a couple of weeks (the last seeds will then be planted at the end of June). For the lunar calendar the sowing must be done two days after the first quarter of the moon.
The pea plants, and also the jackdaws, their close relatives, are varied, attractive and satisfying to cultivate. Some varieties are eaten as pods, others are grown for seeds. These, like all legumes, are characterized by being rich in proteins.
In general they are characterized by a root system that lives in symbiosis with some bacteria capable of fixing nitrogen, present in the air, in the soil. As a result they will have a lower need for nitrogen fertilizer.
We can say that the pea is an annual hardy plant and available in a wide range of varieties, rather simple to grow.
In traditional varieties the pods are harvested immature and the seeds are consumed. The peas with round seeds are rich in starch, while the rough ones are sweeter on the palate.
The most cultivated are, however, the smooth and round ones more than anything else because they are more resistant to rotting and bear a great variety of different soils, even cold and wet.
In the last century other varieties have also developed, such as jackdaws and mangots, characterized by a rather tender and therefore palatable pod. The latter are interesting varieties from the food point of view because they are able to supply a considerable amount of fiber. They must be harvested early because the seed inside must not be able to develop.
Other important innovations were plants with tendrils instead of leaves. They are less attacked by birds, but, unfortunately, they are an easier victim of pests such as the bindweed. It is therefore advisable to grow them using mulching sheets.
On the market you can find early cultivars, which are ready in about 12 weeks, and late cultivars, which need about 15 weeks from sowing.

Pea cultivation

After placing the seed at a depth of about 3 cm, it will be covered with a little lightly pressed soil. A light watering will complete the first part of the job. When the seedlings have reached a few centimeters, it will be necessary to arrange the support structures consisting of plastic nets supported by wooden or iron posts; the distance in this case between rows varies between 50 cm if you plant the dwarf pea, 80 cm for the semi-dwarf peas and about a meter for climbing peas.
The pea does not need any particular fertilization as it is able to directly fix atmospheric nitrogen in its structure. In the first growing period it may be useful to distribute chemical fertilizer anyway.
Seed collection can take place about four weeks after sowing if the fresh product is to be consumed. Otherwise, if you prefer to dry the pea, you can collect the pods when the contents are completely ripe.
There pea plant it is sensitive to parasites typical of legumes, including weevil, tortice and aphids; another danger is represented by the oidium which is eliminated with wettable sulfur, in particular it can be prevented by avoiding wetting the leaves in a hot and humid climate.

Family, genus and species
Fabaceae, pisum sativum
Type of plant Annual herbaceous plant
Exposure Sun
Rustic Rustic enough
Ground Not demanding; excellent drainage
Composting Generally not necessary
Irrigation Adjust without stagnation
Sowing Autumn-winter in the Center-South, late winter in the North. Scalar seeds
Collection From spring to late summer

Pea characteristics

The cultivated pea is an annual resistant plant belonging to the Fabaceae family. It has been widely cultivated since ancient times to be used both in human nutrition (fresh, dry and today frozen) and as animal feed.
It is an annual herbaceous climbing plant. The roots can reach even a meter deep if the soil conditions are favorable. They are in any case very ramified, in particular on the surface layer of the soil. The rootlets at that level have nodosities in which the symbiotic fixation of nitrogen takes place.

The stem

The stem, not very branched, can range from 50 cm to 2 meters in length (but also 3, for the varieties used to produce feed) and is of indeterminate growth (in practice, in optimal conditions, it could grow to infinity). Its section is cylindrical and sticks to the supports through tendrils.
The stem is divided into knots. The first ones at the bottom are purely vegetative, the higher ones are reproducers (and therefore produce the pods). In the dwarf and early cultivars the first flowers can appear already at the fourth node, in the late ones, instead, one may have to wait until the twenty-fifth is reached.

Leaves, flowers and fruits

The leaves are alternate and composed from one to four pairs of leaves sessile, opposite and ending with a simple or branched tendril. The leaves are oval, 2 to 6 cm long.
The flowers are of the papilionaceous type and appear in the axil of the leaves. They can be solitary or collected in racemes composed of groups of two or three.
The flowers are closed to the outside and fertilization is therefore in most cases self-sufficient.
The fruit is a pod from 4 to 15 cm long which can contain from 2 to ten round, smooth or wrinkled seeds, from 5 to 8 mm in diameter. The color is generally green, but there are also yellow or purple varieties (the latter, when cooked, generally return to being green).


During the early development states it is rather resistant to cold. In fact it can also withstand temperatures around 0 ° C. The ideal conditions, however, for its development and to reach production range from 10 to 20 ° C. Temperatures above 25 ° C, on the other hand, lead to early flowering and low product quality.


In this respect we can say that it is an undemanding plant. It adapts to many different types of soil, but prefers those with excellent drainage and medium texture, so not too heavy, but not even sandy.
Absolutely avoid water stagnation which favors the onset of root rot. However, it is also the drought that could cause early flowering and the consequent loss of production.
Soils that are too rich in calcium, usually heavy ones, affect the quality of the product. They can cause a thickening of the external skins and make cooking more difficult and longer.


Irrigations must be adjusted carefully. The soil must always be moist, but never excessively watery. The ideal is to use drip irrigation by carefully adjusting the administration.
To preserve the moisture of the soil (and also to prevent weeds), it is useful to prepare a mulch based on leaves or straw. Even plastic sheeting can go well (by setting up an underlying irrigation system). Let us also remember that irrigation just before the harvest improves the quality of the product.


The best exposure is always full sun. However, where the springs may already be quite warm, even the partial shade is well tolerated.


Thanks to the presence of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the roots, the pea rarely needs interventions from this point of view, especially if the soil has already been cultivated previously. If on the other hand it is particularly poor and comes from years of neglect, it will be good during the processing operations to incorporate a good quantity of mature organic soil improver and, if necessary, to spread a slow release granular fertilizer (but always characterized by a low nitrogen content).

Crop care

The pea requires numerous weeding operations in order to aerate the soil and avoid the presence of weeds. The earthing up operations must be carried out when the plant reaches 12-15 cm in height and must then be repeated each time it adds about 25 cm.


The supports must be planted when the plants reach 10 cm in height. You can use grids prepared with traditional branches. Alternatively they are excellent natural or plastic rods, or special metal or nylon nets.
The height of the support must be proportionate to the final dimensions. For dwarf cultivars, 100 cm may be sufficient, for medium cultivars up to 2 meters.
It may be a good idea to use the supports as a support also for very thick mesh nets, with the aim of protecting our crop from birds.


The sowing is carried out preferably in autumn-winter in the Center-South and at the end of winter in the North, directly at home.
For a family cultivation the indication is to make scalar sowing from March until the end of summer in order to ensure a continuous harvest.
On average 10 square meters of soil require 150 g of seed. Sowing is generally carried out in simple or double rows. Distances are strongly influenced by the chosen cultivar.
THE dwarf peas they must be positioned at 40 cm in the row and 45 between the rows. If you use double coupled files the distance goes down to 35-40 cm in the row and 40 between the rows.
For the climbing peas in simple rows the distance between the plants is 65 cm and 75 between the rows.
For paired rows instead, 65 cm are left between the plants and 60 between the rows. For passages suitable for collection it is good to leave 80 cm.

Approaches and partnerships

Pea cultivation should not be repeated in the same area in two different years, indeed, it would be better to avoid it for the following 3-4 years.
They grow very well if there are carrots, asparagus, celery, cabbage, lettuce and turnips nearby.
Instead, it is best to avoid intercropping with garlic, shallots, onion and parsley.
The collection differs considerably depending on the conservation that we would like to carry out. Generally we distinguish the harvest for fresh consumption (or with the purpose of freezing) and the collection for having in dry product.
For fresh consumption the harvest is scalar. The pods must be firm and full and the seed must not be divided in half when it is squeezed between the fingers. The consistency must not be at all floury.
For dry consumption, the crop is harvested just before the pods open to release the seeds. We need to mow the plants and bring them to a completely desiccated courtyard and then divide the pods from what is left. The residues can be placed in a composting container or incorporated into the ground, since they are excellent fertilizers.

Pea: Parasites

Peas are unfortunately attacked by a large number of parasites: aphids, weevil, tortrice. Many of these pierce the seed and empty it, irreparably ruining the crop.
It is therefore necessary to use special insecticides with a certain regularity.
Among the cryptogams we report the mold of the pods, the downy mildew and oidium, all to be fought and prevented with specific products, especially in the presence of rain alternated with heat.
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