Growing and Caring for Pea Sprouts: A Complete Guide

One of the easiest garden projects, growing pea sprouts provides a quick and easy way to enjoy your own microgreens. A low maintenance crop that is suitable for growing both indoors and outside, this is a reliable, year round crop that is suitable for gardeners of all abilities.

Rich in flavor, pea sprouts are also surprisingly quick and easy to grow from seed to harvest. The entire process, from sowing to harvest, takes little more than a few weeks.

Additionally, you don’t need any fancy equipment such as an irrigation kit or hydroponic system. To sprout, all this crop truly needs is a little time and care. This makes it one of the most affordable edible crops to grow.

Growing pea sprouts is an ideal project for kids. Quicker than growing other types of peas, these small shoots are usually ready to harvest within just a few days of sowing. Starting some seeds and harvesting the sprouts is a great way to get youngsters interested in growing their own food.

Finally, pea sprouts are not only great tasting, they are also rich in many nutrients including Vitamins A and C. Additionally, this quick growing vegetable is also a good source of folates, manganese and protein.

1 Pea sprouts
This is a quick and easy to grow crop.

Sprouts or Shoots?

Pea sprouts are sometimes also called shoots. These are just two of the terms commonly used to describe these quick growing crops. Other common names include:

  • Microgreens,
  • Pea tips.

While the names pea sprouts and shoots are often used interchangeably there are some key differences.

Strictly speaking, the name pea sprout describes the first stage of the plant’s life cycle. This crop can be grown in soil or water and is typically harvested within a few days of germination. The sprouts are usually harvested as soon as the root tip begins to grow. You can eat both the seed and root of the pea sprout.

A pea shoot is an immature plant that is grown in the soil. The shoot can be harvested within 2 to 3 weeks of germination once the true leaves have emerged and the seedling is several inches tall.

2 Pea sprouts and shoots

Shoots are typically taller than pea sprouts. by Larry Hoffman / CC 2.0

Different Types of Pea Sprouts

Organic seeds specifically for sprouting, growing as shoots or cultivating as microgreens are increasingly easy to find. You should be able to find packets at your local garden center or health food store.

You can also find the seeds for sale online or in plant catalogs. Often online and plant catalogs offer a wider range of choice, however if you are just starting out a standard, commonly grown variety is fine.

Some of the most reliable varieties include:

  • Green pea is a standard sprout or shoot variety. A reliable choice, its round green seeds produce flavorsome sprouts and shoots.
  • Dwarf Gray Sugar is a popular variety which is grown for its sweet, tender shoots. Unlike some other varieties they don’t become stringy.
  • Tendril Pea produces leafy shoots and lacy tendrils. Tendril is a popular choice for adding a crisp crunch to your salad.
  • Speckled produces slender stems and leaves. As the name suggests the seeds are speckled.
  • Yellow is popular for its fresh flavor. The yellow seeds deepen in color when soaked in water,
  • Petite Snap-green is a unique variety that produces delicate clusters of leaflets. A good indoor variety, you can also cultivate it outside in pots from the spring to the fall. Petite Snap-green is also a reliable choice for a cut-and-come-again crop.

Whichever variety you choose, you will find that it is easy to grow and harvest.

3 Easy to grow pea sprouts

Whichever variety you select, it is both quick and easy to grow.

What You Will Need

One of the easiest to cultivate crops, pea sprouts grow in almost every type of container. As well as small plastic or terra cotta pots you can also recycle salad containers or egg shells.

If you are growing a lot of pea shoots, or want to cultivate a mix of short pea sprouts and taller shoots, a 10 by 20 inch Plant Growing Seed Starting Tray is ideal. A tray of this size can easily provide you with 7 to 10 days worth of edible crops.

In truth, this easy growing crop grows almost anywhere. The only requirement for your pea sprout container is that it has lots of drainage holes in the bottom.

4 Pea sprouts grow anywhere
Both the sprout and shoot are quick growing crops that can grow almost anywhere. Young-pea-sprout by Marco Verch / CC 2.0

If you are growing pea sprouts with children, growing this crop in clear mason jars is a great choice. Children of all ages delight in watching the seed germinate and grow. Simply clean the jar out and, after adding the seeds, cover with a sprouting jar lid.

Sprouting jar lids are commonly sold in garden centers and health food stores. Made from either plastic or metal they fit on most types of jars.

You can also purchase Sprouting Jar kits, these jars come with a fitted mesh lid which makes it easy to rinse and drain the seeds.

If you don’t want to invest in a lid you can use cheesecloth to cover your container. Just make sure to wash and dry it thoroughly between each crop.

Seed sprouters are a good investment if you are regularly growing crops of microgreens. Round or square in shape many, such as the Gardens Alive Seed Sprouter Kit are also stackable. This enables you to grow a number of crops without taking up too much room on your potting bench or kitchen counter.

Stackable sprouters also allow water to flow down through the lawyers. This makes watering, rinsing and draining a lot easier.

5 Sprouting jars
Seed sprouting jars are a good investment. Seed Sprouting by Jo Zimny Photos / CC 2.0

In addition to your container, if you are growing shoots or in trays, you will also need some growing medium. I find that a good quality, soilless potting mix is perfect. You can also use compost.

A watering can or Driew Plant Mister is necessary to keep the growing medium and the germinating seeds moist. A plant mister spray is best used at the start of the process. This produces a fine spray that won’t dislodge or drown your seeds.

Later, a watering can with a soft rosette that won’t flatten the young plants can be used.

You may also need a propagator or plastic lid to place your trays in. The trays can also be placed in a plastic bag. This helps to trap moisture, speeding up germination rates. However, using a cover is not strictly necessary. The seeds still sprout without a lid but the process may take a little longer.

You will also need:

  • Scissors, for harvesting taller shoots,
  • Oscillating fan, to improve air circulation if you are growing your crops in a closed off room with poor circulation such as a basement.

How to Sow and Grow Pea Sprouts

Begin by measuring out your seeds. A large, wide-mouth jar comfortably holds 4 tablespoons of seeds. A 10 by 20 inch seed tray holds 1 to 1.5 cups of seeds.

Don’t be tempted to start too many seeds. After watering the seeds swell up, filling the growing space.

Soak your seeds overnight or for 6 to 8 hours in clean water. There should be at least 2 inches of water above the seeds as they soak. This may seem a lot, but these seeds are capable of absorbing a surprising amount of moisture. A 2 inch covering prevents the seeds from drying out during the night.

Soaking the seeds is important because it helps to soften the shell and improves germination rates.

6 Soak and drain seeds
Soak the seeds overnight. Soaked and drained by coconinoco / CC 2.0

After soaking, drain the seeds well.

Rinse the seeds in clean water and drain again.

Place the seeds in your chosen container such as a sprouting jar. Cover the top of the sprouting jar with a lid, cheesecloth or other mesh material. 

If you are using a growing medium such as well-draining potting soil, lay a 2 inch pre-moistened layer on the bottom of the tray. Gently firm the growing medium down. In shallow trays, a 1 inch thick layer is fine.

Scatter the seeds densely over the surface. Try to spread the seeds out as evenly as possible. Don’t worry about spacing the seeds out too thinly, unlike other seeds it is not a problem if they are touching each other.

After sowing, place the container in a light position away from direct sunlight.

Germination and Aftercare

Unless you have sown the seeds in compost you must rinse and drain them with clean water 2 to 3 times a day. Each time soak the seeds for 3 to 5 minutes before draining. After draining, inverting the jar, either fully or at an angle, helps to encourage any remaining water to drain away.

If you have started the seeds on a tray filled with potting medium, moisten the growing medium every day with a plant mister bottle or fine watering can. This prevents it from drying out.

Pea sprouts, unlike other larger types of peas, require little care apart from regular watering.

Germination usually occurs within 2 to 3 days. The first sign of germination are small, white shoots appearing.

7 Pea sprouts emerge
White shoots emerging indicate that the seeds are germinating. Sprouted Cow Peas  by Vadani Kaval Gheta / CC 2.0 

Once the seeds have sprouted they are ready to be eaten. If you are growing pea sprouts in a Gardzen Garden Propagator Set with a plastic lid, the cover can be removed as soon as germination occurs.

To boost germination rates, some growers may wish to place the trays under grow lights. If you opt to do this, use a timer to keep the lights on for 16 hours a day. However, placing the tray in a light windowsill, or close to a light window, is just as successful.

Remember to turn the tray every few days to encourage the seeds to grow straight and not bend towards the light.

For a constant supply of fresh microgreen crops, start a fresh tray of seeds every 2 weeks.

Following germination continue to water the seeds regularly until you are ready to harvest. If you are growing shoots, keep the soil evenly moist until the shoots reach the desired height. When your shoots are a few inches tall they are ready for harvest.

8 Keep pea shoots moist
Keep moist until you are ready to harvest. Source: Jar Sprouter by Kate Ter HaarCC 2.0

Growing Outdoors

From the spring to the fall you can also grow your pea sprouts outside, either in a greenhouse or cold frame or on a sunny patio. During the hottest parts of summer you may need to place the trays in a shady spot.

Microgreens that are growing in hot, sunny conditions may require more frequent soaking or watering than those not in direct light positions.

9 Pea shoots grow outside
During the warmer months you can also cultivate this crop outside. Source: Pea-sprouts by Brendan Riley / CC 2.0

How to Harvest

Once your microgreen crops have germinated, the next stage is the harvest. Like every other stage of this process, this is pleasingly straightforward.

Rinse the seeds and remove them from the container. Lay the pea sprouts out flat, or as flat as possible, on a clean kitchen towel to drain and dry. Best used fresh, you can also store your harvest for use at a later date.

If you are storing your harvest, make sure that they are fully dry before storing. Attempting to store wet pea sprouts reduces their shelf life.

10 Dry pea sprouts before use
Dry your sprouts before using them.  

After an hour or two the seeds should be dry enough to place in a food storage container, lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture, in the refrigerator. Here they should keep for up to a week.

If you are growing taller shoots, you can use scissors to clip away what you need as soon as they are tall enough to clip. I tend to wait until the shoots are 6 inches tall before cutting back to about half an inch above soil level.

Learning how to grow pea sprouts is a quick and easy process, providing you with a ready supply of tasty, nutritious crops. Once you know how to grow pea sprouts you can also try cultivating other sprouting crops such as mustard, arugula and alfalfa.

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