How to grow peas in Zimbabwe

As far as snacks go, heading into the garden to eat sweet young peas in the pod is hard to beat. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to get enough for the pot once you start munching them straight from the garden…

Pea varieties

There are two types of peas, those that you shell and those that you don’t. In the latter type,  you’ll find flat pod ones such as mange tout and more rounded pods like sugar snap. The height peas grow varies from less than 45cm to almost 2m.

When to plant

In Zimbabwe, you can plant from January to May, as they like the colder weather. Soaking before sowing improves germination, which should take place in 4 – 6 days.

Site and spacing

Soil should be fertile with manure/compost dug into it. Sow directly into the ground in a zigzag along their support (see Staking). Light shade is tolerated. Sow seeds 5cm deep and 15cm apart. Plant in single rows or double rows 25cm apart.


Unlike beans which spiral around supports, peas have long tendrils, which reach up and attach to any support they find. Peas should be supported as soon as the first tendrils appear.

A medium chicken wire can be a good option. With the shorter growing varieties, twigs and branches (pea sticks) cut from your garden can be enough of a support. Just make sure that your support is strong as the crop can be quite heavy. If you intercrop with maize, the peas will use the maize as a support. The maize will also benefit from the nitrogen fixed by the peas.


Mulching peas as soon as they are well established will help reduce the burden of weeding and it’ll also keep moisture in the soil.

You will need to protect them from the birds; mousebirds in particular are partial to the sweet succulence of a fresh pea. Watch out for little maggots inside the pods – a sign of pea moth. You should be able to avoid this by growing them under a fine mesh. The non-shelled types won’t be affected.

Towards the end of their cycle, the leaves might turn white, indicating mildew. Practice rotation to stop spread of soil borne diseases. As a part of the legume family, peas produce nitrogen so are excellent for increasing soil fertility. If you want an ongoing supply, sow every 3 to 4 weeks.


They’ll take about 15 to 20 weeks to mature, less if you are growing the non-shelled types like mange tout, which you can eat much younger. Long before the peas mature, you can make use of the sweet young pea shoots, the delicate growing tips of the plant, which can be pinched off and give a delightful pea flavour to your salad bowl or to garnish.

 By Sara Davies

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