Square foot gardening is a relatively new way to grow a kitchen garden in your backyard. Unlike many traditional arrangements, square-foot gardens take up very little space yet experience incredible yields.
Today’s article will go over how you can start a square-foot garden for peas (along with other fruits and vegetables) and why this type of gardening may be a great addition to your home.
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What Is Square Foot Gardening?
Square foot gardening is a type of raised bed gardening that grows a wide variety of plants in a small footprint.
When setting up a square-foot garden, you start with a small raised gardening bed. For this, four feet by four feet is standard. Another common measurement is four feet by eight feet.
You can make a raised gardening bed by creating a frame out of wood or bricks. The structure will act as your walls. The best part about this initial construction is that the raised bed may get placed anywhere.
It doesn’t matter if it’s over grass or even over concrete. The recommended minimum depth for a square foot garden is six inches, so try to make your bed at least that high.
Once your frame is complete, you can fill the bed with a soilless mix. While you could use ordinary soil, a soilless combination will help ensure that there will be as few weeds as possible in your garden, meaning less work for you.
Now that you have a raised bed filled with a soilless mix, it is time to divide your bed into growing plots. As the name suggests, you divide your raised bed into square-foot plots in square-foot gardening.
Each small parcel will produce one type of plant. It leads to a highly curated, dense gardening plot perfect for home use.
It is up to you how to divide your plots. Some gardeners like to use thin PVC pipes to separate the plots. That would also be an easy way to integrate an automatic watering system.
Some twine would also work as a divider for a more straightforward option.
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How To Grow Peas in a Square Foot Garden
Peas are one of the easiest plants you can start in a square food garden. Not only that, but they also make for some delicious pods or solo peas.
The following sections will talk about how to grow peas in a square-foot garden, create the best conditions for them starting, and maintain them for success all season long.
Peas are straightforward to plant and grow. Peas do best when directly sown into the ground. They don’t like to have their roots disturbed, so transplanting doesn’t work well.
- You can plant up to eight pea plants on your square foot plot.
- Since there is always a chance that the seeds won’t take, you can always plant a couple of extra into the plot for a maximum of ten.
- Beyond that, you may experience overcrowding your plants (unless you’re okay will removing a few plants after they sprout).
- Push your seeds about one inch into the soil when you plant them. After your seeds get planted, give the entire square foot an excellent watering to encourage them to germinate.
- To germinate even faster, you can soak them overnight in water before planting them.
- After the seeds get planted, continue to water them at least once a day to keep the soil damp while the seeds germinate.
- After a few days, you should see the first leaves popping out of the ground.
- Peas are a cool-weather crop and should get planted early to mid-spring.
In many cases, peas will be one of the first plants in your garden.
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The first thing you’ll need to know about growing peas is that you’ll need a trellis. Peas need something to climb on to grow. Otherwise, the pea plants will just be sitting on the ground, and there is a good chance they will rot or develop mold
So look for some kind of free-standing trellis that your pea plants will be able to grow up.
As mentioned above, peas are a cool-weather crop. They’ll grow best if they get started by mid-spring, and you will notice a decline in their growth rate when summer hits.
No matter the variety, the average pea plant will be ready for harvesting within 60 to 70 days from when you first planted them. Once you start to see flowers on your plant, you will need to check daily for pea pods. Peas are very fast-growing, and pods will appear within days of the flowers.
When you pick the pods depends a little on the type of pea you are growing. Snow peas will need to get picked just as the pods develop small peas inside.
- Snap peas need to get picked when the pods turn plump and glossy.
- Finally, shell peas need to get picked before the pods turn waxy.
- If the pods turn hard and dull, they are left too long. Just pick them off and discard them.
Pods are best harvested in the morning, shortly after the morning dew has evaporated. It is encouraged to use two hands when harvesting them. Use one hand to pull the pod off the plant while you use the other hand to hold on to the plant itself. If you’re gentle with your pea plant, it’ll continue to grow more pods as the season evolves.
The best part is that the more pods you harvest, the more that will be grown back in their place.
Lastly, peas will grow through spring and into early summer. As the hottest parts of summer arrive, your pea plant may stop producing will and die.
As this plant does best in cool temperatures, it may not grow well in the southern states. States such as Arizona, Texas, and Florida may have trouble getting peas to thrive as the temperature may be too warm. Northern states like Maine, Montana, and New York likely will have much more success.
To be sure if you can grow peas or not, check the growing zone on your seeds and compare that to the area where you live.
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Next, we’ll go over some tips and tricks on how to grow peas over the season.
Again remember to plant your peas in the early spring for as long a growing season as possible. The peas will slow in their growth and die by the middle of summer, so it is best to plant them in early spring.
When watering pea plants, remember that pea plants are susceptible to root rot. For that reason, water your pea plants after they have germinated sparingly. Some sources say only water them 1 inch per week. Another rule of thumb is to water them whenever the top inch of the soil is dry. If you’re used to traditional gardening in rows, you will notice that a raised bed will dry out faster.
If your pea plant starts to turn yellow, it is likely experiencing heat stress. If this is the case, you can help your plants by providing shade in the hottest part of the day and keeping them well watered.
For peas, you usually don’t need a lot of fertilizer if you add in a mulch of plant material like grass clippings and leaves. If you don’t have mulch on hand, you could go with a simple 20-20-20.
It is better to weed by hand. Peas have short, delicate roots that can get damaged by using tools to weed.
Types of Peas
This section will show a few varieties of peas that you could grow. The peas can be sorted into shelling peas, snap peas, and snow peas.
Shelling peas are great if you want the peas inside the pod. In these, the pod usually isn’t worth eating. A few varieties include:
- Green Arrow
- Progress No. 9
- Thomas Laxton
- Little Marvel
Snap peas are the perfect mix between shelling and snow peas. Not only are the pods filled with delicious plump peas, but the pods are tender enough to eat the whole thing in one bite.
- Sugar Ann
- Early Snap
- Sugar Snap
- Super Sugar Mel
Snow peas are usually flat, with small immature peas inside the pod. These often get used in Chinese cooking.
- Oregon Sugar Pod II
- Mammoth Melting Sugar
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Why Square Foot Garden?
Square foot gardens are prized for their density. Instead of having a massive garden of plants all spread out and walking paths between them, you get a condensed garden with a relatively small footprint.
And since everything is in a small four-by-four bed or an eight-by-four, you don’t need a walking path, and you’ll never be walking over your plants.
In the following two sections, we’ll go over the pros and cons of square-foot gardens.
Pros of Square Foot Gardening
Fast Set Up
As said earlier, all you need to get started with a square food garden is a raised bed frame and some soilless mix. As you can put this frame anywhere, you can have the whole thing ready to start planting in just a few hours.
In each square, the plants get densely planted, meaning you will get a lot from just a tiny space.
The advantage of using a soilless mix is that there will be little to no wild seeds mixed in. On top of that, your plants will get so densely planted that it will be difficult for weeds to grow anyway.
You may just need to look through your garden every couple of days and pluck out any minor weeds that appear. Since the plot is so tiny, this will take very little time.
Going hand in hand with the weeding, a square-foot garden is just less maintenance overall. There’s less weeding, less space to drag a hose around, and no trails to maintain.
To make it even less maintenance, you could experiment with an irrigation system so you wouldn’t even need to water the plants, just plant and eat.
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Cons of Square Foot Gardening
High Start-Up Cost
With traditional gardening, all you need to start is some seeds. With square-foot gardening, at the very least, you need the frame and the soilless mix.
If you have access to good-quality soil, you could use that instead to help bring your costs down. You could even dig your garden into the ground rather than using a raised bed.
Not Enough Depth
The minimum recommendation of six inches isn’t enough for most plants, especially if you’re placing your frame on the pavement.
Six inches is fine for peas, but for anything else, you may want to consider bringing your structure up to at least 12 inches.
If you are placing your frame over grass or soil, 6 inches is fine so long as you’re okay with the roots going down into this second layer of soil.
Square foot gardening has lots of plants very close together. That isn’t going to be enough for some plants, such as ground vining plants like pumpkins or large plants like asparagus.
You’ll need to put these plants in a more traditional garden or their own raised beds.
The one downside to raised beds is that they will dry out more quickly than traditional gardening. That does mean you’ll be watering more often. Installing an irrigation system, however, can cut down on this.
Square foot style is a garden you’ll want to check on every day. Large weeds will be nearly impossible to clear out once they get established. It is better to hand weed as you see them keep up with it.
Furthermore, you may like some more gardening articles:
- Square Foot Gardening Sweet Potatoes
- Square Foot Gardening Zucchini
- Beets Square-Foot Gardening [All about Beets]
- Square Foot Gardening Parsley [How & Where to Grow]
- Square Foot Gardening Bush Beans [Best Methods to Grow]
- Square Foot Gardening Kale
- What You Need To Know About Square Foot Gardening Spacing
- Square-Foot Gardening Soil Mix [Best Tips & Tricks]
- Okra square foot gardening
- Square Foot Gardening Garlic [Methods To Grow]
A square-foot garden is a great way to grow peas. Just remember to add a trellis and plant them in early spring. Beyond that, you’ll be enjoying fresh sweet peas in no time.
I’m Elsa, and I love gardening. I started GardeningElsa.com as a resource for other gardeners, and I offer expert advice on gardening topics such as plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetable gardening. On my website, I share my latest tips and tricks for creating beautiful gardens. When I’m not working on my website, you can find me in my own garden, tending to my plants and flowers. Read more about me.