Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University

WSU Snohomish County Extension office has moved!

Our office is now located in the Snohomish County Parks & Recreation Administration Office at Willis Tucker Park, 6705 Puget Park Drive, Snohomish, 98296.

Growing the Legume (Pea) Family

Posted by kate.ryan | August 25, 2015

Fresh peas and snap or green beans from the home vegetable garden can add variety and nutrition to family meals. These vegetables can be prepared direct from the garden, as well as frozen, canned or dried for later use.

Fresh peas planted in early spring are usually ready for harvest by June 10, depending on average temperatures, and may be harvested for up to two weeks. Snap beans planted in May or June are harvested from sometime in late June through mid-October. Successive plantings of small quantities of snap beans ensure a more continuous harvest.

Types of Peas and Beans

Peas are grown for either their edible seeds or pods. Garden or English peas, grown for their seeds, are harvested as soon as the pods are well-filled but the seeds are still tender and sweet. When small and tender, these peas can be eaten raw in salads. For cooking, shell them just before using and cook immediately.

Snow peas or sugar peas have edible flat pods and very small seeds. They should be picked when very young, just as the seeds start to form. If not picked at this stage, they can be shelled and eaten as garden peas, but are more starchy and not as sweet.

Sugar snap peas are also an edible pod pea but have larger and sweeter seeds and a thicker pod. They are grown to full size and then eaten like snap beans.

Sugar snap peas grow on tall vines that require the support of a trellis. Garden peas and snow peas have both climbing and low-growing varieties.

Beans may be harvested at various times depending on how they are to be used. When the seeds are immature and the pods edible, they are used as snap beans. High-quality snap beans should be harvested when tender and well-shaped, before the developing seeds cause the pods to bulge. As the seeds mature, they may be used as green shell beans; or as dry shell beans, if seeds mature fully and pods are allowed to dry. There are many other types of beans used as shell or dry beans. Only the snap or green bean and the yellow wax bean are included here.

Bean plants may have either a bush habit of growth, or a pole or vining habit. As with climbing pea varieties, pole beans should be staked or trellised for ease of picking. Bush beans and peas are recommended if garden space is limited. However, upright trellises can also be real space savers.

Maritime NW Favorite Variety list

This list of pea and bean family variety favorites for Maritime NW was gathered from the suggestions and experiences of our Snohomish County Growing Groceries and Master Gardener volunteers.

Planting Requirements

Peas are a cool-season crop and may be planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Sow seeds about one inch deep and two inches apart in the row. Low-growing varieties can be grown in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Climbers need three feet between rows, or plant a double row six inches apart on either side of trellis.

Beans are a warm-season crop and should be planted after danger of frost has passed. Sow seeds one inch deep in heavy soils and 1-1/2 inches deep in sandy soils. Bush beans should be spaced three to four inches apart in the row. Space pole beans six to ten inches apart along a trellis or plant several beans to a pole.

Both peas and beans can be grown in a variety of soils, but good drainage is essential. Peas require a pH of 6.0 to 6.7. Beans prefer a slightly more acid condition of pH 5.8 to 6.3.

In addition, to ensure good growth, the use of an inoculant is an added insurance step for healthy legume crops. Each type of legume require a unique species of rhizobia bacteria for good inoculation. For more information on the topic in inoculants read Legume Seed Inoculants. Most well-stocked nurseries will have fresh inoculant available each spring that is a mix of species to work with most of the common legumes. Without good inoculation, the root nodules that help legumes fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and contribute to the plant and soil health cannot grow.


Specific application rates are best determined using the results of a soil test. Contact your local conservation district office for information on soil testing. Fertilizer may either be broadcast and worked into the soil before planting time or banded two inches to the side and three inches below the seed at the time of planting. A later side dressing, after pods begin to form, may be necessary if plants appear yellowish or are not growing well.

Cultural Practices

Weed control is essential especially in the first six weeks after planting. Shallow cultivation and hand-pulling are the preferred methods. The soil should be kept evenly moist. Overhead watering should be done early in the day to reduce the incidence of leaf diseases that occur when the leaves remain wet overnight. An organic mulch about two inches deep will conserve soil moisture and reduce weed problems.

Diseases that may attack beans include anthracnose, bacterial blight, mosaic, root rot and rust. Pea diseases include powdery mildew, root rot and wilt. If possible, rotate the location of peas and beans in the garden to reduce the incidence of soil-borne diseases that can build up over time.

Insect pests of peas and beans include aphids, Mexican bean beetles, leafhoppers, seed corn maggots and mites. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for identification and control recommendations. This publication has information on dealing with Pea Leaf Weevil 0903E.

Harvest and Handling

Once peas and beans begin to reach the appropriate stage for picking, harvesting will continue on a daily basis for several days or even weeks with succession planting. Peas and beans are best used as soon as possible after harvest, but may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days if cooled immediately. The same applies for freezing and canning. For best quality, freezing and canning should be done within a few hours after picking.

Dry Beans in Western Washington

For detailed information on growing dry bean varieties to maturity in the Puget Sound region check out the publication Growing Dry Beans in Home Gardens