How Much Depth & Space Do Peas Need To Grow? (3 Things To Know)


Peas are a welcome sight for many home gardeners and farmers alike, as they are one of the first plants to emerge at the beginning of the growing season. While they are fast, easy growers, it’s important to space them correctly to produce a high-quality harvest.

Pea plant seeds should be planted about 1.5 inches deep and a minimum of 1 inch apart to allow for adequate growth and less risk of disease and competition. Rows should be spaced 12-18 inches apart. If you’re using a raised garden bed, it should be at least 2 feet deep to accommodate its roots.

While you can push the limits of pea plant spacing to a degree, keep in mind that risks are involved. This article will discuss the depth and space required for healthy pea plants, along with other tips to help this year’s crop succeed.

How Much Depth & Space Do Peas Need To Grow?

Although pea plants vary in height, width, and growth pattern, a good rule of thumb is to plant your seeds 1-2 inches apart, then thin them to 3 inches apart. For many taller varieties, you will also need space for a trellis to be placed a few inches from the plants. 

pea sprouts
A good rule is to plant peas 1 to 2 inches apart, thinning to 3 inches later. Depth should be 1.5 inches or less.

Pea plants need more exposure to sunlight and warm temperatures than many other plants. Whether you’re planting them in the ground or in a raised garden bed, seeds should be placed no more than 1.5 inches deep. This will allow your pea plants to experience ideal growing conditions.

How Deep Do You Plant Peas?

Pea plants need plenty of moisture, sunlight, and air to germinate and grow, so a relatively shallow depth is ideal. According to the Michigan State University Extension, peas should be planted between one and 1.5 inches deep. 

chicken wire trellis
A trellis will help your pea plants to climb – there are lots of possibilities, so don’t limit yourself!

Since the seeds are planted close to ground level in full sun, it’s important to adhere to the recommended growing zones for the best results. Most varieties of peas won’t tolerate temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit. To grow them successfully, you’ll need around 60 days when the soil is over 45 degrees, yet under 85.

What Happens If You Plant Pea Sets Too Deep?

Several issues can occur when pea seeds are planted too deep. For example:

  • The seed won’t receive the sunlight it needs to germinate. In some cases, the plant will sprout, but then die before it emerges.  
  • It may not have access to sufficient oxygen, leading to poor growth or failure to germinate.
  • Since soil is warmer at ground level, pea seeds planted at a lower depth might stay too cold to sprout or grow slowly. 
  • When it comes to the soil in the ground, the greater the depth, the heavier and denser it is. Although nature surprises us sometimes, it’s much harder for tiny sprouts to push through compact, heavy dirt.
peas sprouting
If you plant peas too deep, they might not be able to break through to the surface after germination.

It’s important to note that even if planted at the correct depth, the soil still needs to be warm enough for pea plants to grow properly. When the ground is no longer frozen, and the soil reaches at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to plant your peas.

To take out the guesswork, using a meat thermometer is a cheap and easy way to test your soil’s temperature. 

How Far Apart Do You Plant Peas?

The amount of space you’ll need between peas depends on the size of the plant you’re growing. Plant them about 1-2 inches apart if you’re planting from seed.

Once the seedlings have at least one set of true leaves, thin them out to about 3 inches apart. When you’re thinning your seedlings, cut the stems at the soil level with small garden clippers. Pulling the whole plant out could damage the delicate roots of your chosen surviving plants. 

pea plants
After your seedlings get their first set of true leaves, thin them to around 3 inches apart.

Depending on how tall your plants are supposed to grow, you may need to support them with some sort of trellis. A trellis can be store-bought or made from stakes with netting in between.  Taller pea varieties that vine and prefer to climb will grow better with support. 

(Pea plants falling over? Find out why here).

Penn State’s Extension recommends giving support to smaller varieties as well, since growing upwards increases airflow. Increased airflow means less of a risk of disease or insect damage. To find out if your plant should be staked, check with the seller you purchased it from or any instructions that came with it.

peas
Planting peas near a fence is another way to give them support as they grow taller.

If using a trellis, it’s best to place it in the ground at the same time you’re sowing seeds or transplanting your pea plant. Adding a trellis when the plant is established might end up damaging roots, many of which are delicate and integral to the plant’s survival.

You can place the support structure a few inches away from the pea plant so that it doesn’t interfere with growth. 

How Far Between Rows Of Peas?

If you’re growing multiple rows of pea plants, each row should be 12-18 inches apart. Aside from ensuring that your plants have enough room to grow, consider the ease of harvesting. Many gardeners space their crops further apart if growing particularly tall varieties, giving them more space to harvest. 

peas along fence
Leave 12 to 18 inches between rows of peas (you can leave more if you need to walk between the rows).

Some gardeners use the square foot method for planting peas, in which each 12×12 inch area contains up to 8 plants. With this strategy, the plants will help to support each other as they grow. 

What Happens If You Plant Peas Too Close Together?

Pea plants can tolerate growing closer together than many other plants, to a point. If you pack peas closer than a couple of inches apart, you’ll likely notice signs of overcrowding. Examples of this include:

  • Pea plants that are packed in too tightly won’t receive enough airflow, leading to a higher prevalence of disease – particularly fungal. Powdery mildew, for example, often occurs in areas with low air circulation and can easily wipe out a whole crop if it’s not caught soon enough.
  • When plants like peas are growing too close together, there aren’t enough nutrients to go around. As a result, some plants won’t have the necessary sunlight, oxygen, or soil they need to thrive, and could ultimately end up dying. The plants that survive may grow slowly, with stunted growth, or yield considerably fewer peas.
  • While pea plants don’t typically attract many pests, several types of insects are attracted to humid conditions caused by overcrowded plants. 
pea plant
To keep your pea plants healthy, give them enough space and avoid over crowding to prevent disease and competition.

If you decide to plant your crop with the minimum amount of space between plants (an inch apart), you should make sure your rows are spaced farther apart. 

How Deep Should A Raised Bed Be For Peas?

In a raised garden bed, you can better control the environment of your pea plants. Many gardeners find that it’s easier to monitor the nutrients, soil temperature, and irrigation when planting in raised beds. 

raised bed image homepage
If you want to plant peas in a raised bed, aim for a depth of at least 24 inches to account for a pea plant’s taproot.

When using one for plants, your raised bed should be at least 24 inches deep, which is the normal length of a pea plant’s taproot. While roots continue to grow once they reach their maximum length, the plant will be working on lateral, or secondary roots next. 

Here are a few more tips for growing peas in raised beds:

What Size Grow Bag For Peas?

Any soft-sided container filled with soil can be considered a grow bag. Traditional grow bags are made of woven fabric, but some gardeners simply use a bag of soil to start plants. Grow bags are a good option if you’re looking for a convenient way to grow a small number of compact pea plants. 

jute bag
A grow bag for peas should hold at least 3 gallons of soil. A larger container will be necessary for more than 2 or 3 plants.

Your grow bag should be able to hold at least 3 gallons of soil for planting peas. If you want more than a couple of plants, you will either need to get a larger grow bag or use multiple containers. No matter what you decide, make sure your bag has good drainage and is filled with loosely packed, fertile soil. 

Conclusion

Keep in mind that while it’s good to follow the tried and true guidelines from professional growers, conditions can vary greatly even within a single state. Make your educated guesses based on the research you’ve done, and experiment. Perfection (if there is such a thing), comes from trial and error. 

If your pea plants are not flowering, you can find out why here.

To find gardening books, courses, and more, check out The Shop at Greenupside!

About the author:
Kathryn is a plant enthusiast and freelance content writer who specializes in home and garden topics. Based in New York, you can get in touch with Kathryn at https://kathrynflegal.journoportfolio.com/.

Kathryn F.

Jon M

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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