Pre-Sprout Your Peas To Give Them A Head Start And Boost Yields This Growing Season

If the soil's too cold, seeds might rot before they have a chance to sprout. Here's how to avoid that.

January 27, 2017
sprouted peas
Thomas MacDonald

Young pea plants thrive in cool weather and tolerate light frosts, and that puts them high on the list of vegetables to sow in early spring. But if the soil is too cold, the seeds may rot before they germinate—the reason some seed companies give their pea seeds a chemical bath. If your seeds are bright pink, you know they've been doused. (Here's how to grow organically on a budget.)

Fortunately, plenty of seed companies sell only untreated seeds. And there’s an easy way to get peas up and growing in cold soil that doesn’t involve chemicals or pink dye. The trick, many gardeners have discovered, is to presprout the seeds before sowing. Here's what to do:


Presprouting 101

Measure out the quantity of seeds you intend to plant. Put them in an airtight container or plastic bag between two layers of wet paper towels. Close the container and leave it at room temperature. Check the seeds after 24 hours; if the seeds have plumped up and the embryonic roots have begun to extend away from the seeds, it’s time to plant. If not, close the container and wait another day. Fresh seeds usually spring to life in 1 to 3 days. (Check out these 7 ways to grow organic potatoes, too!). 

Related: How To Keep Your Favorite Seeds And Grow Them Again

The tiny roots are fragile and easily snapped off at this stage, so handle the presprouted seeds gingerly and plant them quickly. Dust the damp seeds with an inoculant powder, if you wish. (Inoculants for legumes contain symbiotic bacteria that form nitrogen-containing nodules on the plant roots, nourishing the pea plants and whatever crops follow.) Sow the presprouted peas immediately in compost-enriched soil.