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You can calculate how many pea plants to grow for any harvest you want.
The first step is determining the harvest you want!
In the next steps, we use averages to get the right number of plants per person to yield the harvest you’re looking for.
Rather than throwing a random number at you, I’ll help you decide the right amount of peas to plant for you.
I was motivated to figure this out when I decided I wanted my garden goal to be growing a year’s worth of food.
Even if you don’t care to grow a whole year’s worth of peas, you’ll be able to decide for what span of time to grow peas for.
Although we haven’t prioritized growing a year’s worth of peas, we have grown a year’s worth of other crops by using these same calculation steps.
It’s kind of fun even just calculating how many plants you’ll need for a year of food because it shows you how easy (or difficult) it is to grow all of your own food.
I use a crop calculator to do these calculations every year before I draw a garden map. Setting an expectation for the harvest I want from my garden each year allows me to draw out a realistic garden map, and establishes a measurable goal for getting better at my garden.
It takes the guesswork out of gardening (not that suspense is always a bad thing) but I know that I’m maximizing my time, resources, and space available.
See: Save Money & Grow the Vegetables That Cost You Most
How many peas do you need?
The number of peas we want is divided into two categories:
Do you grow peas for the peas? or for the pods?
We would love to grow all our own peas and pods because we consume them both ways.
The last time we grew a large number of pea plants, however, we discovered how exhausting shelling peas, for the peas, would be to yield what we would want.
We eat a lot of peas when we eat peas. and if I could, I’d eat them all the time!
So peas are less practical for us to grow a year’s worth of than pods—Even more so, as you’ll get more young pods from a plant than full-grown peas.
We found out that we could grow and freeze all the pods we like to eat for a year is manageable, unlike peas.
What about you?
- How many peas do you eat in a serving?
I might eat a 1/2 cup to a full cup of cooked peas in a single meal (I love them…)
- How often do you eat a serving of peas?
But I also don’t eat them often because, as I’ve discovered, they are rightfully expensive. So I don’t tend to buy them. If I do, maybe one frozen bag per year.
One bag gives me 1kg of peas to eat, that’s approximately 7 cups of peas—about 10 servings, for us.
On this logic, I could grow a year’s worth of “peas” (for me) with about 14-28 shelling-pea plants. But, I truly desire so many more peas! So I previously thought I couldn’t grow a year’s worth. After breaking it down, I probably could.
But, is it worth it compared to pods?
I love stir-fries with flat snow pea pods and fresh plump sugar snap peas.
Flat snow pea pods could be frozen and used later in cooking.
Sugar snap peas for fresh eating have limited harvest windows, so can only be enjoyed twice a year for a few weeks.
Snap peas are even more expensive than shelled peas. So they are worth enjoying each spring and fall since I don’t buy them.
But I’ll need to be careful about how much I grow because they only keep fresh in the fridge for so long, and I can only eat so many.
- This calculation will be made based on how long my fresh pea season is, how much is a serving, and how many servings I am likely to eat over that time frame.
That means I’ll need to prioritize growing snow peas for stir-fries during the non-pea-harvesting season.
- This calculation will be made based on how often I eat stir-fries that include snow peas, how much a serving is, and how many people I cook the stir-fry for.
How many peas do you get from a pea plant?
Once you’ve decided on which peas to grow for your desired meals, you’ll need to know the average yield per plant to complete your calculation.
Since we eat peas with and without the pods we wondered how many individual peas grow per plant so we can accomplish our goals. Having grown several varieties of peas, we have gathered a good sense of how many peas you can expect from a single plant.
In general, shelling pea plants yield 1/2 a cup of peas per plant. Each pod contains an average of 8 peas and grows 20-30 pods per plant. A 1/2 cup of peas (I counted) holds 210-240 peas.
But keep in mind, not all varieties of peas grow the same number of pods per plant. Snow peas put less energy into growing actual peas and therefore yield more pods per plant than a shelling pea.
On average, snow peas produce 25-45 pods per plant when picked often while young and tender. We picked our plants 5 times in spring and got an average of 8 pods per plant each harvest.
To yield your typical 227g bag of peas from the grocery store, you’ll need to grow two to three plants.
How long do peas keep producing?
If you’re attentive to your peas, you’ll get several harvests from each seasonal succession.
We wondered how long we would be able to harvest our peas based on how we harvested them, so we let a few plants grow full-sized edible peas and harvested the others as frequently as young peas were ready to eat.
We noticed a drastic difference in how long we were able to harvest from each plant. We only got 2-3 pickings from full-sized (non-hardened) peas and got nearly 2 dozen pickings of young tender peas.
Peas produce for up to 3 months with regular early harvesting and cool weather. Peas can also produce for as little as a month if you don’t harvest them frequently. Once any peas are left to mature, new harvests from the plant will sharply decline.
This goes to show that for a limited-space garden, you’ll surely want to pick your peas as often as possible to make the most of your space!
How do you increase the yield of peas?
Picking our peas more often got us a much higher yield of peas.
The only difference is the more mature peas we enjoyed for the peas and the young peas we enjoyed for the pods.
So whether you want peas or pods, many things can be done to increase your yields apart from how you pick the plants.
Firstly, peas thrive in cool environments. You’ll want to sow them in a place that gets 6 hours of full sun but offers cool periods for when mid-summer approaches.
Get peas in the ground as early as possible in spring: In autumn, you can put your spring pea bed to rest, over winter, with a black tarp. By the time spring comes around and the snow melts, the soil will warm up faster as the black tarp absorbs the sun’s heat.
Get peas started early in summer for autumn harvesting: Summer makes the soil too hot for peas to even germinate, but a way to get a head start is with shade cloth! I also use these shade cloths to keep my brassicas cool and protected from leaf munchers.
Plant your fall peas under your spring brassic shade cloth! And if you didn’t grow brassicas…
Set up a shade cloth for a few weeks in advance to when you’d normally plant peas for fall, water the soil with cold water, and if you can get your soil temperature to 70 degrees or less (21C), your peas will germinate. by the time they outgrow the suspended shade cloth, the temperatures will be generally cooler.
Lastly, plant another succession; the normal time you’d plant your fall peas.
My final tip is to simply plant more peas for a guaranteed higher yield. Pea plants only produce so much and won’t magically produce double the number of peas with special treatment.
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