Peas are one of the easiest plants to grow, and growing them in a polytunnel can make it even easier and more rewarding. If you have young children, they can be an excellent choice. Since they grow quite quickly, children will be able to see the progress and feel good about their gardening endeavours. Children also tend to like picking and shelling the sweet, fresh peas, so growing your own peas can help you encourage them to eat more healthily too.
There are many different types and varieties of peas that are perfect for polytunnel growing. One of the first things to consider is when the peas you are considering will come to harvest. If you choose different peas for different times of year, you could be harvesting and eating fresh peas for much of the year. Bear in mind that there are also mange tout and sugarsnap peas, which can provide some variety and sometimes provide a higher yield in weight and nutrients than the shelling kind.
When planting pea seeds, the main decision that you will have to make is whether you will sow peas directly into your growing areas, or will transplant seedlings later. Direct sowing is fine as soon as the soil has warmed up sufficiently in the spring. But you can get a head start, and get peas earlier, if you sow peas indoors to transplant into your polytunnel later. Sowing seeds indoors can also be a good idea if you have problems with rodents or birds or other pests eating the peas you sow directly. In order to minimise disruption to pea plant roots, you can sow pea seeds into toilet roll tubes or other deep biodegradable containers, so these can be placed into the ground without roots being disturbed.
Peas will thrive in a polytunnel environment. As nitrogen fixers, they can also play an important role in maintaining and improving the soil in your growing areas and in crop rotation schemes. Consider where peas should go based on a crop rotation system, and on what other plants will be grown in the vicinity.
Before you sow seeds or place your pea seedlings in your chosen location in your polytunnel, it is important to get your support structure in place. Peas can be supported using netting, mesh, or – the cheapest solution – a series of branched twigs to which your peas can cling.
Finally, if pests are a problem in the spring where you live, you can protect your seeds and young pea seedlings by covering them with cloches – you can use half plastic bottles. Cloches such as these will also help to protect peas from any unexpected cold snaps later in spring.