5 Tips for Growing Peas in Raised Beds

Peas are reliable crops for growing in cool weather. Raised beds offer the perfect home for peas, as they are easier to tend, manage, and maintain. Use these five tips from gardener Jerad Bryant and give your peas a boost this season!

peas raised beds. Close-up of a pea plant growing in a wooden raised bed, with vibrant green, compound leaves arranged along slender, climbing vines, bearing clusters of crisp, elongated pods filled with tender, sweet peas.


Native to southern Europe, peas grow where there is ample sun, a cool climate, and fertile but well-draining soil. In the garden, they thrive in raised beds and containers and are easy to grow with the right care. 

Peas appreciate the same treatment whether they grow in wooden or metal raised beds. Tall raised beds present a challenge for home gardeners, as they need a large amount of soil. One easy method to fill them up is to place old wood or gravel on the bottom of the beds and then backfill with fertile potting soil. Rotting wood adds drainage to the bottom of the beds, while also adding nutrients for pea plants. 


snow peas with abundant foliage in a sunny garden.
Choose between the two main forms: shelling peas or those with edible pods.

Once the beds are filled, they’re ready for peas! Pea pods grow in two general forms, the shelling pea form and the edible pod form. Shelling pea varieties grow thick pods that protect the succulent peas inside. The pods are tough to chew, so take the peas out of the pods before eating them. Grocers sell pre-shelled frozen and canned peas worldwide. 

Edible-pod peas are entirely edible, and they taste best when stir-fried or eaten fresh with dip. Harvest snow pea types when the peas are still small in their pods, and snap peas after the peas swell up. 

Once you’ve decided what kinds of peas you’d like to eat, the next step is deciding how much space your raised beds have for peas to grow. With a lot of space and a trellis, vigorous vining varieties are a good choice. They climb onto whatever they can and will grow over six feet tall with support. 

With little space or no trellis in raised beds, try bush varieties. Bush peas grow low to the ground, and they typically have many stems sprouting from the ground. They also benefit from a stake or trellis for minor support.

Both bush and vining types grow edible pods and shelling peas. With many different combinations of types, there are pea varieties for everyone. Let’s discover which ones work best for you!

Wando Shelling Pea

Wando Shelling Pea Seeds

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Wando Shelling Pea Seeds

Oregon Sugar Pod II

Oregon Sugar Pod II Snow Pea Seeds

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Oregon Sugar Pod II Pea

Sugar Magnolia Pea

Sugar Magnolia Snap Pea

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Sugar Magnolia Snap Pea

Select Productive Varieties

Close-up of a pea plant adorned with delicate, compound leaves and slender, green pods dangling in clusters, each containing rows of tender, sweet peas.
Choose the perfect pea variety based on your preferences!

With so many pea varieties to choose from, choosing one may seem like a daunting task! Fear not, as the best kind of pea to grow depends entirely on what you prefer and how much space you have.

Shelling pea lovers with large raised beds and tall trellises have the ideal space for vigorous vining varieties. One excellent cultivar is ‘Tall Telephone,’ also known as ‘Alderman.’ It reaches six feet high with support! This is a rare kind, as shelling peas typically grow on shorter bush types. 

If you like shelling peas but have a smaller space, try one of the many bush-type shelling varieties available. These are your grandma’s pea types, as they are often heirloom cultivars or hybrids of heirlooms. One exceptional cultivar with both heat and cold tolerance is ‘Wando.’ Another fun type with baby pods is ‘Iona.’ This French pea doesn’t need support and reliably produces numerous amounts of tiny pea pods. 

My favorite types of peas are the snow peas, the kinds that you eat when the peas are small. They typically mature quicker than shelling peas, and they have a diverse range of uses in the kitchen. In my Oregon garden, I grow ‘Oregon Sugar Pod II’ each year for a reliable harvest. These short, stocky vines proliferate bright green pods. With trellises at least four feet tall, try ‘Mammoth Melting Sugar,’ another snow pea type.

Snap peas are similar to snow peas, except you harvest them when the peas swell inside their pods. Then, you eat the pod and peas whole. Snack on them fresh, make a salad with them, or saute them like snow pea pods. Extremely vigorous, the ‘Sugar Snap’ variety reaches six to eight feet tall! It grows pods with sweet, crisp flavor on productive vines. A funky variety with purple pods, ‘Sugar Magnolia’ puts on a colorful show in the garden while also growing edible peas for the kitchen. 

New cultivars now exist that combine the supreme taste of shelling peas with the edible pods of snap peas. Their pods are edible when young, but their peas are also edible as shelling peas when they mature. If you can’t make up your mind, try one like ‘Sugar Ann’ or ‘Sugar Sprint’ for the best of both worlds. 

Plant at the Right Time

Close-up of a woman's hand planting pea seeds in the soil on a raised bed. Pea seeds are round, wrinkled, and pale greenish-beige in color.
Time your pea planting for optimal growth and harvest.

Now that you’ve got your seeds, choosing the optimal time to plant them is important. Peas grow when the weather is mild and humidity is high. They love cool breezes and appreciate cold nights with mild days. 

Gardeners in USDA gardening zones nine through eleven should plant peas anytime from fall through winter. Just be sure not to plant pea seeds after late spring, as the weather in these zones warms quickly during the day and may get too hot for optimal pea production. 

In all other areas that receive hard frosts, plant peas as soon as the soil thaws and is easily diggable. This varies from late winter to late spring, depending on where you live. Some gardeners in zones seven and eight may plant peas in the winter if it is a particularly mild year. Most pea varieties will be ready for harvest within two to three months. 

If you love peas, growing them once a year may not be enough. Peas also love temperatures found in the fall and perform well as a fall crop in all areas. Plant pea seeds 12 weeks before your first average frost date. Within two months, you should have ample peas to harvest for freezing, canning, and eating fresh. 

Inoculate the Seeds

Close-up of a woman's hands planting a young pea seedling on a raised bed. The young pea plant showcases delicate, light green leaves emerging in pairs along thin, trailing stems.
Consider inoculating your pea seeds for healthier soil and plants.

Inoculation is a process of applying a specific bacteria that grows on pea plants’ roots. It works with the peas to produce nitrogen in the soil that it and other plants use. Raised beds with sterile potting soil are the ones most in need of inoculation, as they lack the microfauna found in native soils. 

If you’ve grown peas before, or your raised beds have been around for a few years, then you may not need to inoculate the pea seeds. The nitrogen-fixing bacteria is often found naturally in the soil, especially where peas have grown in the past. 

When unsure, an application of bacteria won’t hurt your plants or your soil. Either buy pre-inoculated pea seeds or find a powder or liquid application and apply it to the seeds yourself. 

Give Pea Plants Support

Close-up of a pea plant on a raised bed with trellises installed, displaying lush, vibrant green foliage adorned with slender tendrils, alongside elongated, green pods containing rows of plump, tender peas.
Provide sturdy support for your peas with a trellis.

A trellis always benefits pea plants, no matter the type. Even if the seed packet says they don’t need it, peas appreciate a structure. They naturally grow by clinging to whatever they can with their tendrils and pulling themselves up. When you give your pea plants support they spread up and out with ease. 

Try using a wooden stake or a more secure option like a wooden trellis. Sturdy, metal structures are ideal. You can leave them in the garden each year, and they are wind and storm-resistant. 

Add Compost to the Soil

Close-up of a gardener's hand in a green glove with composting food waste in front of a raised bed. Composting food waste with worms presents a rich, earthy tableau with decomposing organic matter interspersed with wriggling red worms, fostering nutrient-rich soil for sustainable gardening practices.
Revive your raised bed soil with nutrient-rich compost.

Raised bed soil condenses and sinks each year as rain, plants, and erosion wear it down. Condensed soil presents a significant challenge to peas, as they like light, airy soil with good drainage. One way to add structure and nutrients to the soil is with compost

Compost contains microfauna like fungi and bacteria that help soils become soft and crumby. Add it each season, especially when your raised bed’s dirt looks like it’s sinking. Worms and the creatures we’ve already mentioned will work in your soil and make it more hospitable for peas. 

If you lack compost, try adding organic mulch like fallen leaves, grass clippings, or fleshy plant growth. Anything organic that decomposes will add beneficial nutrients, structure, and microfauna into the dirt.

Final Thoughts

Pea vines are one of my favorite vegetables, and they grow great in raised beds! They reliably produce yummy and nutritious peas each year, and they easily grow from seed in cool weather. Use these five tips above, select your favorite variety, and you’re set to start planting! Pretty soon, you’ll be up to your ears in peas! 

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