5 Ways to Have a Trellis Free Pea Patch

Photo 1 Credit Carmen Edenhofer

Do you want your peas to grow naturally and wild? Is your pea patch so extensive that supporting them is unpractical and expensive? Here is how you can grow your pea plants without a trellis, and still enjoy a bountiful harvest.

To grow peas without a trellis, the simplest solution is to grow varieties that don’t need trellising, or let the vines sprawl on the ground. They can grow up each other in blocks or can be combined with companion plants for support. Or you can create a vertical garden, which is a haven for the trailing tendrils

Trellises can be beautiful, but they can also be a nuisance. Let’s discuss all the ways you can grow peas without building a trellis.

5 Ways to Grow Peas Without A Trellis

Peas are a wonderful addition to any garden, whether it is a large market garden or a few pots on your balcony. There is nothing quite as satisfying as eating a juicy pea picked fresh off the vine after you finished weeding your garden.

Peas are a weak-stemmed vining annual with a shallow root, which means the long vines are not strong enough to support themselves. The vines send out thin tendrils that wrap around anything nearby and support the plant as it climbs. The traditional method is to let them grow up stakes or trellises, but this is sometimes unpractical.

pea tendrils
Photo 2 Credit Carmen Edenhofer

Lucky for us, peas can be grown very successfully without the help of a traditional trellis. We will discuss the five ways you can enjoy “free” peas.

  1. Plant a bush variety
  2. Allow them to sprawl on the ground
  3. Let them grow & climb with companion plants
  4. Grow peas In a block
  5. Create a vertical garden

1. Plant A Bush Variety

A bush pea is not a true bush, but actually just a shorter vine. They usually grow between 18”-36” high, and many of these varieties do not require staking or trellising. Bush peas can sometimes hold themselves erect but they will often flop over on the ground, especially if you live in a windy area.

Bush peas still benefit from the methods mentioned below, but since the plants are small and compact, they are easier to manage than their tall counterparts.

bush peas
Photo 3 Credit Carmen Edenhofer

2. Allow Them To Sprawl On The Ground

Many people grow peas quite successfully by simply letting them grow along the ground. The obvious advantage is that you do not have to spend time building a trellis. Besides being one of the oldest cultivated food crops (and one of the most delicious), peas are a very attractive vine that adds a beautiful aesthetic as they ramble about your garden.

The main disadvantage with growing your peas on the ground is space. Many pea varieties can grow 6′-10′, and this can take up a lot of valuable growing area in a small garden. 

Letting your peas sprawl over the ground is particularly helpful if you live in a high wind area, where gales can easily blow over the heavily laden vines. But this method is problematic in wet or damp areas, as the low-lying dense vines impede air circulation and peas are very susceptible to downy mildew, and other molds and fungi. Placing a mulch or ground cloth under the plants will help by keeping the foliage and fruit from directly contacting the soil.

Rodents can also be a problem. Mice, gophers, groundhogs, rabbits, and their furry friends will delight in the feast you have put within their reach. There are many natural ways to stop these little beasts from eating your crop. Some growers claim that peas growing on the ground produce a small harvest. Yet, many others say their yield has never been better. Each garden is different, so it might be an interesting, and beautiful, experiment in your own plot.

Photo 4 Credit Carmen Edenhofer

3. Let Them Grow & Climb With Companion Plants

Peas will wrap their tendrils around anything and creep up it. In nature, peas will grow up any vegetation or object they can reach. The vines can reach impressive heights by supporting themselves on a single stalk of grass!

All plants benefit from growing beside beneficial plants, and some of these companion plants can also help your peas climb and stay off the ground.

Corn

The earliest inhabitants of North America typically grew three crops together, which they called the Three Sisters. Squash crept along the ground, while beans grew up the sturdy stalks of corn. To follow in the footsteps of these various indigenous groups, corn can make a strong and productive support for a pea vine.

As peas are generally planted earlier than corn, so it might take a bit of planning to ensure the corn is big enough to support the growing peas.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers also produce a large, thick stem that makes an ideal support for your peas. Sunflowers are also a great attractor of beneficial pollinators. The swarms of little honeybees will help pollinate your pea plants and increase your yield.

As with corn, timing is key and it might be beneficial to start the sunflowers in pots and then transplant them amongst your peas when they are big enough.

sunflower
Photo 5 Credit Carmen Edenhofer

Radishes

Radishes can be planted directly into the garden in the early spring, and they germinate and grow quickly. If left to mature, a radish grows into a tall, sturdy plant that would beautifully entwine with your peas.

While you wouldn’t be able to eat the spicy root, a radish plant produces gorgeous flowers that attract pollinators, and edible seed pods that have a have mild radish flavour.

4. Grow Peas In A Block

Instead of having your peas grow up another plant, why not have them grow up other peas? When planted in a thick block, peas will support each other as they grow and climb. Not only that, the dense planting and thick foliage will choke out weeds between the plants.

To grow peas in a block, plant seeds every 3”-4” (8cm-10cm), or about 16 seeds per square foot. For large plantings, keep your pea patch at most 4ft (1.2m) deep, and as long as you want. If the patch is more than 4ft deep, it will be too dense to harvest and the plants in the middle might get strangled.

bowl of peaas
Photo 6 Credit Carmen Edenhofer

5. Create A Vertical Garden

This is a particularly attractive feature if you have limited garden space such as a patio or small yard, but it can also be done on a large scale to make the most of your plot. A vertical garden will turn an unusable space into a productive addition to your home or garden.

Since they love to climb, peas are ideally suited for a vertical garden.  The peas can climb up the structure while smaller plants can grow between the vines. Old pallets make an easy (and often free) frame for your vertical garden, but the options are only limited by your imagination.

A Quick Summary of Trellis-free Peas

Peas can be grown quite well without a trellis. You can choose a shorter variety, let them grow on the ground, have them climb other plants or each other, or create a practical vertical garden space.

Whatever you choose, it is fun to take a step away from the traditional, and add some creative and experimental flair to your garden.

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.