Winter seed sowing | Peas & broad beans

Winter seed sowing tips with our garden expert: Elly Keen

At a glance: Winter seed sowing tips

  • Succession sow peas & broad beans (sow in paper pots)
  • Succession sow rocket and herbs: chives, coriander & parsley
  • Sow perennial seeds in 1/2 milk bottles
Sowing peas in winter

Sowing peas & broad beans in winter

Peas and broad beans are a crop that prefer to grow throughout the cooler months. While it is recommended to start your legumes by direct sowing in autumn, I find you can continue to sow even in the depth of winter by adjusting your sowing method. 

The biggest problem is not the risk of frost as peas and broad beans are hardy and don’t mind the cold, but rather waterlogged soil that can be a common problem in winter.

Ensure your soil is free draining prior to planting and if you are in a region where your soil ices over or is under snow, then you may continue to plant peas or broad beans seedlings in containers in a sheltered spot or wait until spring.

The reason direct sowing is best for peas and broad beans is due to a single root that forms following germination. This long root grows straight down and branches laterally at around 15cm. Normal cell trays would restrict this natural formation and cause the roots to form a tight mat on the bottom of the pot. Once transferred the plant can then struggle to recover and growth will be stunted compared to direct sowed counterparts.

In winter, direct sowing may not be possible due to the cold temperatures – anything under 8 degrees celsius and seeds just won’t germinate while hard frosts can damage newly emerging shoots. If this is the situation, you will need to start your pea and broad beans seeds indoors

A good solution is sowing in long, thin paper pots and leaving them indoors on a sunny windowsill or on a heat mat where they will receive consistently warm temperatures. These indoor started seedlings are going to be much more established and robust once transferred to the garden, able to withstand harsh winter conditions better than if you were attempted to direct sow.

Once peas have successfully germinated, you should move them outdoors as lack of light will cause your seedling to become leggy. You could plant them directly in the garden at this stage if protected by a cloche, but I find new shoots are particularly susceptible to slug damage at this time of year. Instead, I prefer to grow mine on further by placing the seedlings under cover in a semi shaded spot. This protects them from slugs and harsh weather conditions while they are still establishing. A clear Sistema tub is a good solution for those who don’t own a greenhouse – but just remember to take off the lid during the day as the sun can scorch the leaves.

After a couple of weeks of growth in the tub, your peas should be around 8-10cm in height and you can you begin to harden them off. This process involves moving the plants into the full sun for a 1-2 hours at first and increasing the time over a period of three days. Plants should also be exposed to night time temperatures without the lid of the tub for several nights before transferring them directly into the garden. 

Once transferred, the paper pot will disintegrate in the soil and your seedling will continue to grow slowly throughout the winter time, bursting into action in the spring once the weather warms up.

How to make paper pots
Making paper seedling pots
Paper pots for planting seeds
Paper seedling pot
How to use paper seedling pots
Seed raising mix in the paper pots for sowing

Making Paper Pots for Winter Seeds

Paper pots are really simple and effective for sowing seeds and transplanting them later. You can make them simply with newspaper, and fill them with seed raising mix to grow strong seedlings, even through winter.