How and Why to Grow Peas

We love peas. Let us count the ways.

1. You can start early.

If you’re itching to get into the garden, you can typically start peas in the ground up to 5-6 weeks before the last frost date.  They’ll germinate in 40-degree F soil, though slowly.  They’ll germinate more quickly in 50-to 60-degree F soil.

TIP: Sow in 1-ich-deep furrows, with seeds approximately 1 to two inches apart from each other.


2. They grow so fast.

Like, ridiculously fast. Ideally, the soil should be moist like a damp sponge that’s been wrung out, and rich in organic content from a topdressing of compost.

TIP: Choose a site with full sun and good air circulation. Plant in early spring or late summer so plants can grow while the weather is cool.

3. They are so pretty! And show pollination and maturity in real-time, almost.

Peas are a great teacher of how flowers become food in food-bearing plants: given their quick growth cycle to maturity, you can almost see the flower becoming the pea pod.

TIP: Even if you eat the all of the peas one day, the next day the flowers from the day before will have become the new peas.

4. Their tendrils are the stuff of fairy tale legend.

Watch how peas reach out and hold on to grow higher.  They can be a conversation gateway to talking about support, and how we all sometimes need a prop.

TIP: Install a trellis or other supports, such as string or twine, at planting time.

5. They’re easy, tasty, nutritious snacking!

How empowering for a little (and big) person to get to eat as much as they want of a snack. Compared to other stuff in the garden – greens, carrots, strawberries, etc – peas are typically already clean and ready-to-eat right off the vine.  They’re all yummy: from old-fashioned shelling types or snap peas which you eat pod and all.


  • Shelling Peas: Also called English and green peas, they have inedible pods. Pick before the pods turn yellow.
  • Snow Peas: Also called sugar or Chinese peas, they should be picked when the pods are large and flat, but before the peas inside have begun to swell.
  • Snap Peas: A cross between shelling and snow peas. They bear crisp pods and swet peas, all edible. They’re the sweetest when the peas inside the pods are round and full.
  • Dry Peas: Left in the field until the pods are brown, then shelled, dried and stored.

TIP: Get a variety that works well in your climate.

6. Peas grow in so many different support structures.

A tunnel.

An artistic little house or fort for kiddos.

A spiral.

Your pea support structure can add style and whimsy in any garden space.

7.  The “peas” homonym – peace –  sure does make the world seem brighter.

Peas out.  Visualize whirled peas. Peas, love and happiness, man.  Enjoy your peas. You can go peas-fully.

What’s your favorite pea crop to grow?  When do you plant in your climate? And do you have a favorite kind of trellis or support structure?  And do tell: do you “peas out”?

3 Easy Tricks to Love Your Lawn Naturally

Everyone likes a lush, green lawn that is safe for people, pets and children to lounge and play. Here’s a video with a few easy tips for you to love your lawn naturally.

Natural Lawn Care, So Pets and Children (and You!) Can Play Safely

As the video shows, there are three (3) easy things you can do to keep your lawn lush, naturally.

3 easy tricks to love your lawn naturallyTRICK #1: Trim the Top

Set your lawnmower blades on the highest setting. Also, aim to only cut the top 1/3 of the grass blades at any one time; otherwise the grass gets stressed.

Different grass species actually have preferred lengths. For example, cool season grasses (Fescues, Kentucky bluegrass) range from 1-4” high. Warm season grasses (St Augustine, Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia) vary from 0.75-3” high. Learn more about ideal heights to mow grass.

TRICK #2: Grasscycle!

Let the clippings land and return to the soil. Those tiny little bits can actually help nourish the soil: they typically break down within one to two weeks, and provide 15 to 20% or more of a lawn’s yearly nitrogen requirements. Learn more about grasscycling.

TRICK #3: Support Your Soil

Every fall and spring, spread a ¼” layer of compost or lawn soil. This layer – called a topdressing – helps support the soil structure, promotes good drainage, and stimulates microbial activity (that’s a good thing).

 A Few Other Tips for Natural Lawn Care

First, remember the four key components of healthy soil composition:

  • Mineral Soil (~45%)
  • Organic Matter (~5%)
  • Water (~25%)
  • Air (~25%)

Next, check out this case study of the lush soccer fields in Haddam, Connecticut – impressive root structure, all from topdressing with compost!

Finally, use these easy tips to keep your lawn happy:

watering your lawnWATERING YOUR LAWN: Use the Tuna Can Trick

If you’re going to water your lawn (or, ahem, frolic in a sprinkler), use a tuna fish can to roughly gauge how much water has fallen: place a tuna can on the grass when you turn on the sprinkler(s), and turn off the sprinkler(s) when the tuna can is full.

A few other tips around watering:

  • GO FOR DEEP, LESS OFTEN: Try to water well once per week rather than a few shallow sprinkles throughout the week. Then let the grass dry out completely over the week until you water deeply again. The roots will actually get more sturdy and robust during the dry period by searching for water compared to if you give them a few light sprinkles.
  • WATER IN THE MORNING OR EVENING: You’ll lose less water to evaporation.

screwdriver test for lawnsAERATING YOUR LAWN: Use the Screwdriver Trick to Test

If you’re curious about whether or not your lawn needs aeration, try the screwdriver trick: Wait until the soil is relatively dry – but not completely dry and hard – and test it with a screwdriver. If you can depress the screwdriver an inch or two easily, the soil probably has sufficient aeration. If it takes some bearing down, your lawn could probably use some “aerifying”. Learn more about how to aeate your lawn.


Four Tips for Fall Lawn Preparation


Everyone always thinks of the springtime as the best time to work outside. While the spring boasts lengthening daylight hours and invigorating fresh breezes, the fall actually provides an ideal time to enhance the soil and provide excellent conditions that will carry over into the following year. These four simple tips mostly focus on the lawn.

Allow Grass to Grow Longer

Letting the grass grow longer protects the grass from frost and makes it more resilient to lawn fungus and diseases. As you near the end of fall, raise the height of your mower by a notch or two. Otherwise you leave the lawn open to invasion by voles, mice and other critters.


Aerate the Soil and Add a Top Dress of Compost

Aerating the soil allows for water drainage and prevents it from becoming waterlogged from snow. Lawns need oxygen almost as much as they need water. After aerating (or even if you don’t aerate), topdress the turf surface with a 1/4″-1/2″ layer of compost. The compost will settle into the soil, adding nutrition and structure that will serve the grass roots well the following season.


Seed Your Lawn

Seeding your lawn encourages the growth of turf roots during fall and winter. Splurge on high-quality seed products to ensure the lawn will be able to stand up to drought, disease and pests.


Put Your Fall Leaves to Work

Instead of bagging and dragging fall leaves to the curb, use a small patch of your lawn to create a compost pile with leaves. If you have existing compost soil, mix it in with the leaves and turn all the materials well with a pitchfork. Alternatively, you can place leaves onto the top of the garden between plants and on top of bare soil as a natural layer of mulch that will moderate soil temperatures. Also remember that you can always mulch the leaves into the lawn to add organic matter to the soil. By doing this it will save you time and money from raking and bagging. You are simply recycling a natural resource and enriching your soil for free!


Great Gardens Have Great Soils

Four Components of Great Soil - Organic Content, Mineral Soil, Moisture, Air“Feed your soil, not the plants,” is an expression often used by expert gardeners, as well as companies such as Harvest that have invested deeply into the management of organic materials. Our organization has built its foundation around the notion that the earth is better served by adding valuable organic matter back into garden soils and landscapes throughout North America, rather than having organics decompose in landfills surrounded by plastic and metal.

Every garden using organic matter in their gardens, whether it is a soil amendment product such as a Garden Soil or a natural mulch, is contributing to the betterment of your garden soil. The utter simplicity of how organic matter benefits garden soils is summed up in just a few very important horticultural concepts.

  • Porosity Soils need to breath. There are literally billions of living microscopic friendly fungi and bacteria in your soil along with millions of beneficial insects. They thrive and consume organic matter when there is plenty of oxygen in the soil. Porosity opens up the soil and allows air to flow to the best friends a garden can have: the microbial environment.
  •  Moisture A balanced moisture content maintains healthy soils and the biology in the soil perform to their expectations. When the soil is terribly wet, the soil absorbs. When the soil is too dry, the soil particles hold moisture. Moisture consistency is best for the biology to thrive.
  •  Disease Suppression Our friends at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences articulate this point very well in their article on Organic Manuring and Soil Amendments:

In some instances, adding large amounts of organic materials to soil results in reduced populations of plant-parasitic nematodes and higher crop yields. The reduction in nematodes is thought to be caused, at least in part, by an increase in natural enemies of nematodes. In addition, the presence of decomposing organic materials in the soil apparently provides host plants with some tolerance to nematode attack.

In the end, the management of your soil is the most critical aspect of great gardens: it’s the foundation for success and enjoyment of your garden. When your soil is healthy the sheer enjoyment of being in a garden begins.


4 steps for improving your soilIf you’re now inspired to improve your garden soil, here are our four simple tips to adding beneficial organic matter and texture to your soil:

  1. APPLY a 2-4” layer of soil amendment
  2. MIX to a 6-12” depth (this will also add porosity)
  3. SMOOTH with a rake
  4. PLANT seeds, seedlings, vegetables, herbs, flowers, or ornamentals.

Of course water thoroughly after planting, and ENJOY YOUR GARDEN!

Written by Gardening Expert Dave Devine