How to Plant, Grow, and Save Seeds from Pea (Pisum sativum)

It is easy to see why this early-season crop is a popular garden plant. Peas require little care beyond a trellis and pest protection, yet they produce prolific amounts of snappy pods throughout the spring and summer. This crop is a great way to make your first foray into seed saving.


Sow peas outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked. Peas should be planted at a depth of ½-1” and 3” apart. Space rows of peas at least 18” apart.

Pea plants require a trellis to support their climbing habit. Panels of thick wire, such as cattle panels, work well for this purpose. Alternatively, you can set up bamboo trellises or build a system of chicken wire or twine for peas to climb on.

Peas can be harvested in the snap/green stage, the shelling stage, or the dry stage. Snap peas are ready for harvest when the pods are still tender, before the seeds start to swell. Shelling peas are ready when the pods are tender and the seeds are round and plump. Dry peas are ready for harvest when the pods are dry and brittle and the seeds inside are hard.

Eating and Storing

Early peas are make great fresh eating while later peas can be shelled and enjoyed in salads, soups, and stir fries. Snap peas and snow peas are often eaten whole. Dried peas can be cooked like beans and used in soups, stews, and dips. Pea shoots also make a tasty snack.

You can blanch and freeze peas if you would like to save your spring flavors for another day. Peas can also be left on the vine to dry. Dry peas will store for several years in a cool, dry place.

Saving Seeds

Pea is an annual crop. It will complete its full life cycle, including germination, reproduction, and death, in one growing season.

When saving seeds from peas, separate varieties by 10-20 feet. A single pea plant can produce viable seed. However, to maintain a variety’s diversity over time, save seeds from 5-10 plants.

Harvest the pea seeds when they are very hard and their pods are dry and brittle. If pea pods are not completely dry before the first frost, pull the plants up and dry them further indoors. When the pea pods are completely dry, break them open to release the seeds. Separate the seeds from the chaff.

Store peas in cool, dark, and dry places and always keep them in an airtight container to keep out moisture and humidity. Under these conditions, pea seeds will live 3-4 years.