Vegetables in containers : peas and mangetout (Best Gardening)

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Best Gardening

Vegetables : peas and mangetout

Peas are fun to grow and taste delicious fresh from the garden

Peas in small spaces

Dwarf peas can be planted in a container and grown successfully. Snow peas and sugar snap are fun to try. Remember that peas need a cool, moisture retentive soil and plenty of water for the pods to fill. Although there is quite a lot of work for the size of the crop, peas are fun to grow and taste delicious fresh from the garden. Mange tout and sugar snap peas are best eaten whole, before the pods are swollen. Round peas are hardier than the other, and petit-pois are smaller and sweeter.
Site and Soil
A sunny open site with neutral to alkaline soil that is well drained and moisture retentive (i.e. stays moist not wet). Soils need to be well fed, but do not need a soil with a high nitrogen content.

Sowing Seed
Sow seeds in a drill 2.5-7.5cm (1-3 in) deep in rows 25cm wide, or sow three rows 10cm (4in) apart in a wide drill. Don’t sow into cold, wet ground – you are far better to wait until the soil warms and dries.

Peas resent transplanting so you are best to sow directly into the garden. You can try sowing pairs of seeds into a ‘newspaper’ or milk carton pot (see Growing from Seed), removing the weaker plant after germination and then planting pot and all (milk cartons should be slit and removed before planting) when the soil warms.

Germination can take 7 to 10 days. Sow peas every three weeks to provide a succession of supply.

Sow round seeds outdoors from midwinter to early spring once the frosts are passed. ‘Wrinkled’ seeds and mangetout can be sown from early spring to summer.

To avoid them coming ripe at once, sow seeds successionally resulting in a smaller crop at any one time but longer period of supply

For an autumn crop you can count back from the first expected frost, add two weeks for insurance. When sowing a late crop, remember that if the temperature is above 24oC then it is too warm for peas.

Shorter varieties of peas (Markana, Gemini) have lots of tendrils and will support themselves, but taller varieties need support.

Supports need to be in place by the time plants are 5-7.5cm (2-3in) tall. This can be traditional pea-sticks, wire mesh or netting – all these will support your peas.

You can plant in blocks and grow up a wigwam of sticks such as our ‘beanhouse’ frame. It all depends on whether you have a potager garden, are planting in a small courtyard garden or a large, old-style vegetable garden.

Keep the ground weeded and water well once the flowers have set.

Protect the plants from birds, especially in the initial period of growth. Strawberry netting thrown over the vines will protect them, but may become tangled in the pea-vine tendrils.

A scarecrow is an ornamental option, CD’s hung from strings above the peas, a ‘cat-scarer’ with reflective eyes -there are a number of solutions.
Harvest late spring and summer, shelling peas are ready when the peas almost touch in the pod.

Mange Tout should be harvested when the peas start to develop (the pods will be about 2.5cm (3in) long).

As with sweet peas, the more you pick, the more you get.

Days to Harvest. Approximately 60 days for shelling peas, ‘Sugar Snap’ peas 62 days and snowpeas/mange tout 68 days.


  • Snow Queen Snow pea. Sweet, reists powedery mildew
  • Climbing Snow Pea
  • Sugarsnap Climbing peas ‘snap’ like french beans when broken
  • Sugarsnap Dwarf Crops two weeks before climbing sugarsnap
  • Greenfeast A dwarf pea.
  • Earlicrop Massey A dwarf pea. Heavy cropping and sweet.
  • NZ Greenfeast A mid-season variety. Bumper crops. Reasonable resistance to Fusarium wilt.
  • Novella Garden Peas A dwarf pea (no supports needed). Good yields of sweet, tender peas. Pods grow at top of bush.

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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