Peas respond best to a low nitrogen fertilizer, such as 5-10-10 fertilizer, applied just as the sprouts begin to emerge from the soil. This will fuel yours peas’ growth and encourage a good harvest. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, since this will encourage leafy growth but decrease the amount of pea pods the plant produces. For best results, till compost into the soil where you plan to plant your peas. Then, inoculate pea seeds prior to planting. These extra steps will help your peas thrive.
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Do Peas Need a Lot of Fertilizer?
Peas require very little fertilizer compared to other plants. Garden peas are annual plants, which means they grow over the course of one season and then die naturally. Because you don’t have to worry about preparing them for next year, peas generally only need one fertilizer application at the time of planting.
- Peas only need one yearly fertilizer application, where garden plants like rhubarb need two.
- Because peas increase nitrogen levels in the soil, they don’t require high-nitrogen fertilizer.
In addition to only needing one annual fertilizer application, peas don’t have high nutrient needs. Peas are a part of the legume family and are nitrogen fixers. What this means is that peas naturally increase the amount of available nitrogen in the soil. So, you don’t need to use a high-nitrogen fertilizer for your pea vines.
When Should You Fertilize Your Peas?
There is no specific month that is perfect for fertilizing peas. Peas can be planted in early spring, when soil temperatures are 40–60℉ (4–16℃), or late spring as long as the soil temperature is under 85℉ (30℃). You can even plant peas in the fall in some regions.
- Prepare the soil by adding compost before you plant peas.
- Once the peas grow to 2 inches tall, add fertilizer.
- Fertilize peas planted in both spring and fall.
To properly fertilize peas, prepare the soil before planting. Then, spread fertilizer on your pea plants once they grow to about 2 inches tall (5 cm). Because peas thrive when planted in early spring, late spring, or fall, when you fertilize depends mostly on how soon they reach a height of 2 inches (5 cm). Even if you are planting peas as winter cover crops in the fall, it’s best to fertilize them. This will encourage growth and ensure your soil benefits from the cover crop.
How Do You Fertilize Peas? [3 Steps]
In order to properly plant and fertilize peas, start with a garden plot of well-drained soil. Because peas are annuals that die off, it’s best to start with a bare garden patch. This allows you to till and improve the soil to get the most from your fertilizer.
Prepare the Soil with Compost
Spread 2–3 inches (5–8 cm) of manure compost on the soil surface. Then, use a hoe, rake, or rototiller to mix the compost thoroughly into the top 3–6 inches (8–15 cm) of soil. This introduces organic matter into the soil, increasing the population of soil microbes. Not only will your soil have more nutrients, adding compost makes it easier for your peas to absorb these nutrients.
Inoculate Peas Before Planting
Just before you plant your peas in the garden, dust them with pea inoculate. Inoculate is a powder that will help your peas develop roots that introduce more nitrogen to the soil. This reduces the amount of fertilizer your peas need later and improves your soil. To inoculate your peas:
- Open the seed packets that contain your peas.
- Place the peas in a colander or strainer.
- Run cold water over the pea seeds to moisten them.
- Roll the pea seeds in this inoculate powder until they are lightly covered.
- Immediately plant and cover your seeds.
For best results, choose disease-resistant varieties of peas. This will ensure your peas thrive. Whether you’re growing garden peas, English peas, sugar snap peas, or snow peas, a dose of inoculate will make them more self-sufficient with less fertilizer.
Use a Low-Nitrogen Fertilizer
Once your peas are planted, wait for them to sprout. When they have broken the surface and grown to about 2 inches tall (5 cm), they’re ready for fertilizer. To fertilize your baby pea plants:
- Use this 5-10-10 fertilizer.
- Apply half the fertilizer per square foot that is recommended on the bag.
- Water the fertilizer into the soil.
In most cases, this light fertilization will be all you need. However, if your pea plants are not producing many flowers after the first harvest of pea pods, you can repeat this process. This is usually all it takes to ensure a robust second harvest.
What Nutrients Do Pea Plants Need to Grow?
Pea plants thrive on fertilizers that are high in phosphorus and potassium but relatively low in nitrogen. Pay close attention to the numbers on fertilizer packaging. The 3 numbers on the packaging indicate the percentage of each of these key nutrients.
- Peas prefer low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus, high-potassium fertilizer such as 5-10-10.
- In 5-10-10 fertilizer the “5” indicates the fertilizer contains 5% nitrogen.
- The first “10” in 5-10-10 indicates there is 10% phosphorus in the fertilizer.
- The second “10” in 5-10-10 indicates the fertilizer contains 10% potassium.
Avoid using fertilizers with high nitrogen content no matter what type of pea you’re growing. Excess nitrogen will make your pea plant grow a lot of leaves and stems, but will cause it to produce fewer pea pods.
Do Peas Like Manure?
Pea plants love manure compost but plain manure should never be used in your garden. Well-rotted manure compost has gone through a natural decomposition process that kills the dangerous bacteria found in animal manure and makes the nutrients readily available for plants.
Pea plants thrive when planted in properly-made manure compost.
Uncomposted manure is a terrible fertilizer that may harbor E. Coli bacteria.
Use compost only. Never use raw manure.
In comparison to manure compost, raw manure is terrible for peas. Manure contains harmful bacteria such as E. Coli that can infect your vegetables and cause anyone who eats peas from your garden to get very ill. It also is not a great source of nutrients since the manure hasn’t had a chance to begin decomposition.
Should You Fertilize Pea Plants?
It’s essential to fertilize green peas, sugar snap peas, and all other pea varieties in order to get the most out of your plants. In order to fertilize peas, you should:
- Work 2–3 inches of manure compost into the soil prior to planting.
- Inoculate pea seeds just before you plant them in the ground.
- Apply a half-dose of 5-10-10 fertilizer once your pea plants are 2 inches (5 cm) tall.
Properly fertilized peas will grow quickly, resist fungal diseases, and produce a bumper crop of green pea pods.