Sowing Peas Indoors A New Method

Being as we’re having such a cold spring, I thought I’d get my peas started inside. Generally I’ve just sown direct but this year they’ll be very slow to get going outside. I’ve used the length of guttering method before but didn’t find it particularly successful compared with direct sowing under cloche. Cloches are not an option here, they’d blow away!

I’m using a method that was shown to me by John Carver, an excellent grower, some years ago with a few tweaks of my own.

Soak the Peas

I started by putting the peas into soak in tepid water for a couple of hours. Even in that short time, the seeds actually swell a little. This early absorption of water should kickstart the germination process.

Fill ½ Size Seed Trays with Compost

Whilst the peas were soaking, I filled half-size seed trays with a standard multi-purpose compost and firmed it down using the sowing tool explained below. Then I put the seed trays into a deep gravel tray with water in it, removing the seed trays when the compost at the surface felt damp rather than soaking.

Sowing Tool

The sowing tool is just a piece of board, could be plywood, mdf or what have you, with holes drilled through and a handle. The handle on mine is a bit tatty because I broke the original off and just used an offcut from the wood box.

The peas are popped into the holes and the board lifted, leaving the peas perfectly placed. Move the board slightly – there’s a little play between it and the sides of the seed tray – then press the seeds down. This ensures that there is good contact between seed and soil.

Sowing Peas

Sowing Peas – Using the plate gives peas in the perfect position in the tray.

Cover loosely to the top of the tray with more compost and then water lightly using a fine rose on the can. Place in a propagator set to between 18º and 24º C. Seedling emergence should take place in 3 to 8 days. Once seedlings start to appear take off heat, keeping them under glass until true leaves appear . Then harden off for a few days before planting out.

On planting out, place pea sticks for the tendrils to grab onto.


Because I’m tight for propagator space, I’ve got them under my brassica seed trays. I need to check at least daily and move things about at the first sign of seedlings. Even if they come off heat a little early, the seeds should have started germinating by then anyway.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
20 comments on “Sowing Peas Indoors A New Method
  1. Duncan Robinson says:

    Hi John, I have sowed ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ which is a tall growing ‘marrowfat’ pea from Victorian times, as featured in the ‘Victorian Kitchen Garden’ TV series with Harry Dodson and Peter Thoday from the 1980’s. I grew ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ a few years back and they cook down to the best ‘chip shop style’ mushy pea I have ever tasted. I sow 3 peas per 4 inch pot (I actually used clay pots as Harry did) and then I will plant them out when the weather hopefully improves in April. They say that you get a heavier yield for the ground area growing the old fashioned taller varieties of pea. ‘Alderman’ is still available, as well as ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ from the on line veg seed suppliers. I suppose you do have the extra work of putting up taller support canes though compared to the more modern dwarf peas. Duncan.

    • John Harrison says:

      Hi Duncan – I’m green with envy! Growing tall varieties here is a bit of a problem due to the winds. I’ve had sweetcorn blown out of the ground and runner bean tipis just not a starter. But inside the polytunnel… 🙂

  2. Roger Evans says:

    Germinating peas ( and other seeds ) : I always have had difficulty until I tried this. Back to school days!
    Take two pieces of kitchen towel,lay the pea seeds on one sheet and fold the other sheet over the top, then thoroughly wet the sheets. Put the sheets into a plastic self sealing bag and leave flat ( on a tray ) for several days in normal room temperature and light until the seeds start to germinate. Then plant carefully at 2″ depth firming the soil gently.This way I get 95% germination and all the plants show themselves very quickly and this reduces the time available for weeds to start growing as well.

  3. Jenny says:

    I was bought a gadget to make 3 inch paper pots In which sow 3 peas when big enough plant straight into the ground , no root disturbance. Also 2 beetroot, 1 parsnip.

  4. Queti Knight says:

    I have problems with pea moth which is rife in my area, so I have to grow under insect proof netting which encourages mildew. Any tips anyone? Either on variety or method. I’d love to grow the tall ones, but can’t think how to protect them against the moth

  5. John Woodman says:

    How do you get them out of the trays? Do you break them up and plant them individually or tip the whole tray out together?

  6. Dougal Jeffries says:

    Just for the record, I use deep root-trainers, 32 per tray and 2 peas per compartment. I germinate them in an unheated greenhouse, then plant them out when about 2 ins. high. I only grow mange-tout, because we have marauding badgers on the allotments, who seem to adore mature podded peas but don’t care for mange-touts!

  7. Roger Ducat says:

    There seem to be more ways to grow peas than there are peas! First I chit them in a saucer (about 150 at a time). Then, when the radicals start to sprout I place the seeds onto the surface of raked soil and cover them with a couple of inches of sieved homemade compost. Works for me and saves making a trench!

  8. chris tinney says:

    hi sorry novice here what size is the plate and how far apart are the holes?

  9. chris tinney says:

    Thx John 🙂

  10. William Magan says:

    For me it’s impossible to sow peas direct in the ground due to the water voles. So I have adapted to 3 different methods. Cutting toilet rolls in half and sowing each with 2 seeds. Module sowing(60 modules per plate) and last but not least fine wood shavings. All my seeds I orderfrom an English company.
    I also use the toilet rolls for other seeds e.g. sweet corn, brassicas, paksoi etc.

  11. David Horn says:

    With my Ambassador peas I scratched them lightly between two sheets of medium sandpaper to make them them porous then soaked them in warm water. After this I put one pea each in a deep root trainer. I’m a complete novice at this and looked at different methods and settled on this one. I did the same with my mange tout, Borlotti beans and sweet peas. I’ll let you know if it has worked!

  12. Karen says:

    Hi – I’ve tried growing peas a few times but mice always get them. Any advice/suggestions please? Do the mice leave them if they actually get going enough? Thanks.

    • John Harrison says:

      Since soaking them in red lead is now frowned upon, covering with gorse, holly, dead brambles or anything prickly can work.. bit like our cat if she’s in the mood.

  13. Linda Spencer says:

    I always start off my peas in the nice deep plastic containers you buy your fruit in from the supermarket. They can also be washed and reused and the root system is visible. It also saves having gaps in the rows as the peas can be planted adjacent to each other and they can be sown earlier without danger of mice, very wet weather causing rotting and should the weather be poor they can be kept in the pots slightly longer. I keep mine in a polytunnel to give a bit of protection.

  14. Paul Florentine says:

    I set mine away in old guttering, I fill the gutter with compost sow the peas about 4 inches apart in 3 rows.
    I hang them up from the roof in the Pollytunnel and GH in about 3 weeks they are ready to go straight in to the pre-prepared ground. I make a drill with the Dutch hoe about 3inch deep and 5inch wide, place one end of the gutter in the drill tilt it up to chest height and tap the gutter the compost and pea slide down it to place. firm plants in and give them a good watering in.

  15. Michael Fletcher says:

    Hi John

    I have great difficulty in getting my peas to grow even trying the recommended early strain of peas, I start my peas in trays but still have problems
    Michael Fletcher

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