I took a chance on early peas. Worth it?

Shelling peas about an inch tall, planted Feb. 21.
Shelling peas planted Feb. 21.

I am an impatient gardener under normal circumstances. But give me gorgeous, spring-like weather in February, and I’m likely to do things that are…inadvisable.

The prep of my expanded vegetable bed helped with my garden longing this year, since I was too sore to do much else. My hands were still dirty at the end of the day, so I felt like I was doing SOMETHING. Starting seeds indoors helped, too.

But before long, temperatures in the 70s and lovely packets of pea seedlings resulted in the inevitable: I planted seeds on February 21.

February 21.

That’s a good three weeks earlier than you’re supposed to plant peas around here. Was I crazy, I wondered? Probably. Would the peas fail? I told myself they would. But still: The forecast was promising, and I just could not wait a moment longer.

In went the peas, three varieties, on the far edge of my garlic beds beneath the new trellises. And then I waited, and watched, and waited.

And waited.

A little panicky, I started researching what would happen if I started peas too soon (sure, it would have been smart to do that research BEFORE planting, but who has time to be smart when the weather is freakishly warm?). Sure enough, the experts pointed out, seeds are slow to germinate in cold soil, and might not sprout at all.

I bit my nails and waited some more.

Shelling peas grow about an inch above the soil
Shelling peas planted Feb. 21.

Finally, on March 6, right on the edge of their 7- to 14-day germination window, the first pea pushed its way out of the soil. Over the next few days, others followed.


Snap and snow peas are already about two inches tall.
Snap and snow peas, planted Feb. 21. Disregard that lost garlic in the middle – I think the squirrels helped move it over the winter. It will be pulled out to eat as green garlic soon.

They’re growing merrily now, and I hope they’ll reach up and take advantage of their new trellises soon. For comparison, I planted more shelling peas in one of my whiskey barrels on March 6. I could see the first of those poking up on March 10 – much faster! Despite being planted two weeks later than the first round of peas, they’re less than a week behind. It’ll be interesting to see whether there’s any notable difference in the two plantings as they grow and produce peas.

Later planted shelling peas just above the surface.
These peas, planted March 6, are just coming up.

The lesson here is probably that it’s not worth it to plant peas early. But in reality, when the forecast looks good, and the need for spring is getting desperate — sometimes, you just can’t wait. And that might not be such a catastrophic thing.

Shelling peas in whiskey barrels just starting to sprout.
Shelling peas planted in whiskey barrel on March 6.

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