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How to successfully start Peas early in the spring

Updated: Mar 25, 2023

Planting peas for that early crop takes a couple of tricks.

While peas are one of those crops that enjoy the cooler temperatures of spring and can survive a light frost having successful germination of the seeds in the spring garden can be a challenge. The cold soil temperatures and wet soil conditions can result in poor germination when pea seeds are planted in the early spring garden.

Peas prefer soil temperatures of at least 40 deg F to germinate. The warmer the temperature the faster the seeds will germinate. If the soil is too cold (below 40 degrees), seeds take much longer to germinate and may rot. under the cold wet conditions. At 40°F pea seeds can take more than 20 days to emerge and the longer it take for them to germinate the greater the risk for rot to set in..

To prevent rot the seeds can be treated with a fungicide (usualy pink in color) to help prevent them from rotting in the cold soil temperatures but there is a non-chemical way to accomplish germination without chemicals.

To avoid using fungicide to prevent the seed from rotting in the cold spring ground you can start your seeds indoors.

The container that you will start the seeds in needs to be large enough to accommodate the root system of the developing plant. The better the development of the root system the more successful the transplanting will go. You can use the 6-cell seed starting trays but using the 4-cell or 3-inch pots will help provide a more robust plant for transplanting.

If you are like me, you are quickly running out of room in you seed starting area so you want to be able to get them out into the garden as quickly as possible to free up space for all the other seeds you are looking to start.

To begin the process of starting peas indoors you will first fill your trays with a seed starting mix or a good potting mix. I like to use ProMix Bx

Fill the cells with potting mix then moisten the mix allowing all the extra to drain.

Into each cell you will plant 2 peas. This ensures that there will be at least one plant per cell and there is no problem if there are two.

Compress the peas into the potting mix to ensure good contact of the seeds with the potting mix.

Mist the surface to ensure the potting mix is moist and the seeds are in good contact with the potting mix

Cover the seeds with additional potting mix so that they are completely covered.

Lightly mist the surface of the mix with water to ensure that the seeds will have proper moisture to germinate.

Cover your potted seeds with some clear plastic wrap or place inside a plastic bag to conserve moister while germinating.

Place the seed trays in a warm area preferably 60 to 70 deg f. A bit warmer or colder is fine.

The seeds should germinate in a 5 to 7 days.

You will remove the plastic covering once the seeds germinate.

You will water your sprouted seeds from the bottom to ensure the potting mix does not dry out as the seedlings develop. Watering from the bottom also encourages the roots of the plants to grow to the bottom of the container.

Once the seedlings get their 4th set of true leaves or you see roots growing from the bottom of the pot

You will move them outside to a protected area under cover to get the young seedlings used to the colder exterior temperatures. This is referred to as hardening off. If you do not do this they can be damaged or killed by the sudden exposure to freezing temperatures of the outside.

Once hardened off you will plant the young plants into the garden next to the support that they will grow on.

Space the germinated seeds about 6 inches apart and water well to establish them in the garden.

You will only water them if the soil begins to dry out. The spring soils typically have plenty of moisture and over watering in the cold temps can result in diseases that can kill the young plants.

The cooler soil temps will cause the growth of the young plants to be slow. The growth of the plants will speed up as the temperatures of the soil rises into the 50 deg F.

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