An Easy Way to Start Peas Using Guttering

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Peas growing in guttering

It’s pretty much impossible to grow enough home-grown peas – they’re just too good! You know summer’s finally arrived when you can pick those first glorious pods, each one packed with tiny parcels of sweet deliciousness. Starting your plants off in lengths of guttering is a great way to gain a head start and enjoy an extra-early crop. Here’s how to do it…

How to Give Peas an Early Start

The secret to an early crop of peas starts with selecting the right variety. Choose a variety of pea described as being ‘early’ or ‘very early’. These types tend to be the hardiest and quickest growing of all varieties, giving you an immediate advantage. Of course, sowing any type of pea this way can help while your soil is still too cold or wet from winter for sowing directly outdoors. It’s also a great way to outwit mice, which can sometimes dig up and eat the freshly-sown seeds while you're waiting for them to germinate.

To make your pea gutters, you’ll need standard house rain guttering. Cut longer sections into more manageable lengths to make them easier to handle when full of potting soil and seedlings. Use a hacksaw to cut them down to size. For your sowing medium, use a standard, multi-purpose potting soil or your own seed-sowing mix if you prefer. You’ll also need some sort of protected environment to start your seeds in, such as a cold frame or greenhouse. Short lengths can even be placed on a bright windowsill.

Sowing peas in guttering

Sowing Peas in Guttering

Now for the fun part! Fill the guttering halfway with potting soil then sow your seeds. There’s no need to be too precise with this, but aim to space seeds about 1-2 inches (3-5cm) apart. Top up the guttering with more potting soil then gently pat down to firm. Place the guttering on a bench in a greenhouse or tunnel, or into a cold frame if it gets warm enough. Water thoroughly using a watering can fitted with a rose. Depending on the weather you may find that you don’t need to water again until it’s time to plant them out, but it's always worth checking by pressing your finger into the soil to make sure it's moist but not sodden.

Planting Out Gutter-Sown Peas

It won’t take long for the seedlings to appear. When they reach about 2-4 inches, (5-10cm) tall, it’s time to plant them outside into soil that’s rich and well-drained, and in a sunny position.

Sliding peas out of guttering into the soil

When you’re ready to plant, simply use a spare piece of guttering to make a furrow just the right size for your seedlings. Now transfer your plants. You can do this by carefully sliding out one section at a time – either from a complete length of guttering, or by dividing the potting soil up into 6-inch (15cm) sections, then sliding the section out with your fingers. Once the plants are in, firm down the edges and water to settle them in.

Most varieties will need some sort of support. You can use branched, twiggy sticks for the shortest varieties, but for taller types you’ll need to install some netting or pea mesh between stakes.

In some areas birds such as pigeons will treat young pea seedlings as a tasty snack; they can demolish a whole row in a day! Protect seedlings by suspending netting on stakes above the plants, or place bottle cloches over each seedling with the top open for ventilation.

Freshly-harvested peas

Growing Your Peas On

Peas should find their own way onto their supports. Keep the ground free of weeds and water plants in dry weather. You can add a layer of mulch around the base of plants to help lock in soil moisture.

The pods are ready to pick when they are swollen to the size you prefer – smaller ones are usually sweeter and, fresh from the pods, they make perfect healthy snacks to share.

And that’s it – easy isn’t it! Have you grown peas this way? If so, tell us how you got on and which types you grew by dropping us a comment below.

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Show Comments


"I grew my Unwins Grow Sure 'Sugar Heart' treated sugar snap peas in a gutter started in the greenhouse last year with great success. I tried a winter variety Unwins 'Meteor' planted in guttering in November and they did not germinate at all, but I am going to grow 'Sugar Heart' again this year"
Carol Mathews on Monday 7 March 2016
"Hi Carol. Good luck with this spring's sowings. Let us know how you get on."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 7 March 2016
"Very helpful article. I have have started pea and beans in root trainers,this enables them to be kept growing longer pending ideal planting conditions, however this more costly."
George Ling on Sunday 22 January 2017
"Hi George. Yes, those Rootrainers are ideal for peas and beans. They are a bit more expensive, but the longer root system really helps them get off to a great start."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 23 January 2017
"Fantastic idea. I didn't have any old guttering so I bought some new black ones"
Millie Carter on Thursday 8 March 2018
"Great idea Millie. New guttering is really quite cheap and it's a really novel way to grow."
Ben Vanheems on Friday 9 March 2018
"As an aside, this year for the first time I am growing only sugar snap peas. I find them much more productive than shell peas, and I have frozen them with similar success. "
John Lenard on Saturday 23 March 2019
"Hi John. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Sugar snap peas are also a lot more to buy in the stores, so you are probably getting better value from the same area as well. Sugar snaps are absolutely delicious, you can never have enough of those!"
Ben Vanheems on Saturday 23 March 2019
"I've been starting my beets, green beans and corn early this way for years. I use 4ft sections of gutters so that it matches my plant lights on my shelves."
John Sparks on Tuesday 19 January 2021
"That's great to hear John. I hadn't considered this method for crops other than peas, so may well give it a try with corn this spring. Thanks."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 19 January 2021
"Hi Ben Can you advise other vegtable plants that can be started off this way, and also how suitable to grow through to harvest is using guttering. Maybe you could do a piece on this please?"
John Clarke on Friday 12 February 2021
"I guess you could start anything shallow-rooted in the guttering, to then pop outside once it's a bit warmer. Cut-and-come-again salad leaf mixes would be good. You could grow salads and pea shoots in guttering - sowing along the middle (where the soil beneath the seed is deepest) and, so long as they were kept watered, they should grow fine. But to be honest, if you are growing to maturity, pots and trays - like old mushroom trays - would be better suited."
Ben Vanheems on Saturday 13 February 2021

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