March 24th, 2009
Pisum sativum, English peas ‘Green Arrow’

English peas

Although some of you are just putting in your spring veggies (or are still snow bound), here in Austin I’ve already pulled out my cool weather plants like broccoli and English peas. I think the peas normally might have lasted longer but Austin had a week of days in the mid-80s and after that the peas stopped flowering and looked like they were at the end of their season. I needed the space for warm weather plants so out they came.

I planted the English peas as part of my new fall vegetable garden. After being inspired by the Austin Master Gardener’s tour last April, I decided to put in a raised bed for fall vegetables. Over the winter months this spot of the yard gets full sun; in the summer it is in heavy shade. It is also on the south side of the house, protected from cold winds from the north. I have floating row covers for frosty nights. Zanthan Gardens did not experience a hard freeze at all in winter 2008/2009.

English peas

This was my first experience growing English peas. I’ve grown sugar snap peas before but AJM turned up his nose at them. My Englishman wanted English peas. I bought Botanic Interests ‘Green Arrow’ peas from Central Market because they were at hand. Only after I planted them did I learn they were the same peas that Carol @ May Dreams Gardens favors.

Garden History

Plant one 4-foot row of peas.
The English peas are up. They started poking up last Sunday but today they have their true leaves. I should plant another row.
Plant two more 4-foot rows of peas.
I don’t have a record of the first flower, but I did include it for GBBD for December, 2008. They are in full flower when I take a photo of them for GBBD January 2009.
The English peas are finally blooming as if they meant it. Do they flower best after the solstice like sweet peas?
First harvest. Afraid it will freeze tonight so pick a ripe handful.
Finally harvest enough peas to serve for dinner.
Pick last of the English peas. Wiped out by three 80° days last week. Still, harvested more than I planted which is a plus. They were very yummy.

English peas


When I served AJM some peas he said, “Mmmm. You sneaked a little butter on them.” I hadn’t. I’d added only the tiniest pinch of salt. Shelled right after picking and put directly into boiling water, these peas were sweet (but not sugary sweet) and, yes, almost creamy.

Lessons Learned

Overall, I think I was only mildly successful growing English peas this first time. I’m definitely going to try them again next year. This is what I’ll do differently.

1. Plant more peas.
One packet of seed planted 15 feet of peas and that is not enough for the two of us (unless I figure out how to increase yields–‘Green Arrow’ is supposed to be very high-yielding). While they were bearing, I picked peas about every other day but usually I only had enough peas to throw into rice. Only a couple of times did I get enough for a small side dish.

2. Grow them up a net.
Although ‘Green Arrow’ is a dwarf variety, peas like to grow upward. I used twigs and sticks for stakes but this was inefficient. They flopped too much and it was hard to harvest them. I missed harvesting some peas in their prime and by the time I found them they were hard and starchy.

I also need to grow them in the north-most rows of my 48-square foot raised vegetable garden because they shade everything to the north of them.

3. Stagger plantings.
I’m still not sure when is the best time for planting peas in Austin. So next year I will stagger my plantings. If we’re still having 100 degree days in September, I don’t think I can plant them any earlier. But since they didn’t really begin flowering until after the winter solstice, I will try planting some later to see if I can extend the season into March and April.

Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening suggests planting peas 8-10 weeks before the first average frost date (which I did) and 4-6 weeks before the last average frost date. This was an unusually hot and dry winter for Austin: we had 9 days in the 80s between our average frost dates. Peas don’t seem to like temperatures in the 80s. The seed packet confirms this.

Peas will not be successful if they are not ready for harvest before temperatures rise into the upper 70s and low 80s.

Any other advice from anyone growing peas successfully in central Texas? I’m especially interested in knowing when you plant them.

by M Sinclair Stevens

10 Responses to post “Pisum sativum, English peas ‘Green Arrow’”

  1. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    I don’t have any suggestions for growing the peas in central Texas, but agree that the ‘Green Arrow’ peas do need to have a small trellis and are yummy. Your records are impressive. I sowed my peas on March 17th but they haven’t come up yet. Thanks for the link!

    The records are via Twitter. It’s why I started using Twitter in the first place…a great place to make quick notes. — mss

  2. From Diana - Austin:

    MSS – How pretty they are. And it sounds like they were tasty, too. You’ve made me hungry! I grew peas 5+ years ago but don’t remember when I put them in, sorry. But they were successful and tasty. I didn’t have enough room for them, this year but I’d really like to try them again — you’ve inspired me to put them on my Fall list for 09. With our crazy weather, it’s all a crap shoot, isn’t it? My tomatoes went in too early and got too chilly, but they are doing well now, just a little ugly on the bottom leaves because it was in the 30s last week. It’s all a big booby-trapped test!

    I often wonder if we pass the booby-trapped test whether we’ll be granted the joy of gardening some place with more predictable seasons. This was one crazy winter, though. I’ve never had a winter when my tender plants didn’t die down to the ground before. Next year it will probably be frigid and we won’t be able to overwinter anything. — mss

  3. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    I’m taking notes, in case I decide to try growing peas sometime. Right now, Im just trying to determine whether I can grow Sweet Peas. If they are a success, I’m going to branch out. They do look tempting.

  4. From Marilyn Kircus - Driping Springs, tX:

    The first time you plant peas, or any legume in an area, you need to add the bacteria innoculant they need to fix nitrogen. I got mine at Natural Gardener. In the following years, there should be enough bacteria left in the soil.

    But I didn’t have luck with my peas either. I think I made the soil too rich as I double dug it and put horse manure compost in the bottom 6 inches, then mixed in more compost in the clay at the top. Lettuce, various greens and brocolli loved it but I think it was too rich for the peas and they made too much vine and not enough flowers.

    Next year, I’ll ammend the soil with composted wood chips and not add so much nitrogen.

  5. From ryan:

    It sounds like you did well. It’s really hard to grow enough shelling peas in a home garden. Here in California, I always stagger the plantings. We can harvest snap peas in early winter, but we can only get shelling peas in the spring.

  6. From angelina:

    I love “Green Arrow” peas, I’ve grown them quite a few times. Shelling peas are such a delicacy to grow because it’s near impossible to find them at the markets. I love adding them to pasta with fava beans. The peas are sweeter and more tender while the fresh favas are nuttier. I need to go plant some right now.

  7. From Jenny Austin:

    This year I grew the pea ‘cascadia (Botanical Interests) It is a snap pea but by all accounts can be eaten as such or as a shelling pea. It is open pollinated so I will be able to keep any peas that mature, without being eaten, for the fall. They were planted after the first of the year and are just now producing. Very tasty and sweet. I will let the pods fatten up to see what happens. I am growing them on pea sticks which are the old stems of Salvia leucantha. I could have done with something a little taller-say 3 ‘ instead of the 6’ required for the climbing peas.
    I have sweet peas growing on the cucumber trellis. Someone on the tour last year sent them to me. I see the buds but no flowers. I guess they are open pollinated too. I understand they are fragrant. We’ll see.

  8. From lostlandscape(James):

    I’ve only tried peas once, and it looks like you had way more success than I did in San Diego. So no real advice here, I’m afraid. Too bad. Fresh peas are amazing compared to what you get in stores. I did find that the one bit of advice about staggering the sowings works great if for no other reason than to give one crop a better chance against the first mega-hatching of the aphids. Nothing quite says spring here quite like the aphids. Give me winter–and peas!

  9. From Annie in Austin:

    We’ve mostly grown snap peas, MSS, but once or twice grew a few shell peas. The yield was so low they had to be counted out for equitable sharing but the taste was lovely. Yours look so pretty!

    I got my snap peas planted late, but don’t know the best time in NW Austin, either – we had some real freezes here. Maybe have to plant early & cover them?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  10. From pea-pea tom oldfoet tn.:

    I planted 4 diffrent, little marvel,green arrow,alderman and progress9’s.back in the 2nd week in Feb. So far the only ones blooming are the green arrow. the 2 key’s to growing pea’s are plant early as possible and water,water,and more water. Two plants that you cannot drown are peas and tomatoes. If these 2 get their roots dry there gonners! Take care and happy pea party!!!