I can never understand it when people say peas aren't worth growing or that they're a lot of work. I mean, why wouldn't you want them in your garden? They're one of the few sources of protein that you don't actually have to catch and butcher, and just half a bucket of fat pods is enough to produce three or four good helpings to serve with a meal. As for being a lot of work, that's certainly not the case if you follow my method!
I sow a whole range of peas, from the podding variety (which now come in purple as well as green pods), to the eat-the-pods-and-all sugarsnaps and snow peas. I've also grown asparagus peas but although their winged pods are rather pretty, they don't do particularly well in a cooler climate.
Because peas can be grown so early in spring, when weather is unreliable, I soak mine first and chit (sprout) them indoors to give them a rapid start. Then, in order to do several necessary things at once (save on garden space, protect the seed and young plants from birds, speed up growth, and provide good support for the vines) I sow out all varieties using my tried and true tripod method.
This involves wiring together at one end, three or more stakes. Bamboo works well, or even dried flax stalks and, although stakes for podding-peas need be only a metre high, sugarsnap and snowpea varieties will require 2-metre-high supports. The legs of this tripod sculpture get pushed into the ground and, if the structure looks a little wobbly, I hammer in support pegs and tie the legs onto them. The seed is sown, in a circle, around the inside of the tripod and covered in a light layer of soil, and then mulched. Slug bait goes on top of this. Next, a circle of wire or bird netting, about a metre in diameter, is secured around the lower third of the tripod. This mesh will give the vines something to climb up. Finally, as a protection from the elements, I wrap a sheet of clear salvaged plastic around the outside of the structure, securing the 'seam' with spring-hinged clothes pegs. As the peas emerge from the ground, getting the best start in life, and the weather starts to warm up, the plastic will be removed.
There's no better fail-safe method of growing peas – unless, of course, you're blessed with a perfect, warm climate in which case you can probably ditch the plastic. In the unlikely event that birds dive down through the centre of your tripod to attack your seed or young plants, plug the hole with some straw or a scrunched up sack.
Several of these tripod structures are dotted around my garden, usually within easy access of the path to the mailbox so that, each day, in passing, I can check on growth to make sure that sugarsnaps and snowpeas are picked before they get too large, and that podding peas are harvested as soon as the pods are full. Peas don't like to dry out, either, so passing the tripods daily is a ready reminder to moisten the soil.
Because all varieties of peas are so delicious fresh, and also freeze well, I make several plantings throughout the season, scattering a little lime into the soil before each resowing. The old vines are kept for mulch or chopped back into the soil to take advantage of the nitrogen nodules attached to their roots. In late autumn, any drying fruit that I've missed from the last sowing is kept for resowing next year.
With such a delicious crop at your fingertips, why would you ever want to be a pea pessimist?