How to Plant and Grow Peas and Beans

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Planting Peas and Beans

Legumes, which include peas and beans, are some of the easiest edibles to grow.

Both sprout readily from seed. Each feeds the soil via nitrogen fixation. And, with a bit of planning, you’ll be harvesting one or the other from spring well into autumn.

Planting Peas and Beans growing along a fence

In many locations peas can be planted in late winter or early spring. Or, if your location stays cold well into spring, it is possible to get seeds going indoors to transplant outside a little later. This means you’ll be seeding fragrant, ornamental sweet peas as well as their edible counterparts: snap peas, snow peas, and shelling peas. And, harvests from each can begin rolling in while days are still cool -- well before the first days of summer.  But, once summer heat begins to take over, the days for early-planted peas may be numbered. Under the stress of heat, pea plants may begin to toughen, whither, lose productivity, and even succumb to ugly mildew diseases. When that happens, it’s time to harvest a last bundle of flowers, pea pods, and any remaining tender, edible pea shoots. Then feed your compost pile with any remaining pea plant parts.

The good news is that once the heat of summer has warmed garden soils, it’s time to plant beans.  Scarlet Runners, Rattlesnake, and other “pole” beans thrive by growing up, as did many spring-planted peas. So, rather than remove and store your pea trellises and poles when you pull out the plants, simply sow your summer beans in their place. Within several weeks, your plants will be ascending skyward, flowering, and soon yielding a bounty of beans for your table.

Planting Peas and Beans collecting rain barrel water

Many peas and beans benefit from an indoor soak before being inserted into the soil. Because spring soils can be so chilly, soaking peas to soften their outer casings helps them get a jump-start sprouting. For many big beans, an early soak helps give your crop a boost opening and growing strong. Each may be soaked in a jar of water or a moist towel for a few hours or overnight before planting. Water from your Fiskars® Rain Barrel is great for this task, so long as it is collected from a clean source devoid of potential rooftop runoff toxins. 

Planting Peas and Beans summer pole beans

Try sowing seeds directly into the soil every week or so during summer to maximize the bean season. How long it takes for a particular variety to yield beans will vary, so check the package and weigh that timeline against the number of growing days remaining in your season. Once it becomes apparent that summer is waning and sowing a seed will never yield another harvest, think about sowing another round of climbing peas instead. In many areas, the cooler, shortening days of late summer or early fall are perfect for another round of delicious snow peas or a fragrant array of sweet peas.

And, of course, try to rotate your legume growing spot each year to avoid pest and disease infestations. Fortunately, the nitrogen fixation that happens in a pea or bean bed will enrich the soil where other crops will thrive.