Most pea plants are vining crops, meaning they stretch out in a long vine instead of growing thick like a bush. When growing peas for eating, most gardeners prefer to build a structure that supports the pea plant’s vines. This structure is known as a pea trellis. A pea trellis can be made of a variety of materials. The main function it serves is to help the pea vines grow vertically along the trellis to make harvesting and care easier for the gardener.
Pea plants begin their journey as seeds, usually planted in rows in the garden. Typically, gardeners install a pea trellis over the row of just-planted seeds to avoid damaging plants later on. Once the seeds sprout and shoots begin putting out leaves, tiny hand-like vines grow rapidly from the plants in search of something to hold onto as they climb upwards toward the sun. The vines will curl around anything they touch, including other plants and blades of straw. That is where the pea trellis comes in.
As soon as the pea plants reach the pea trellis, they climb quickly up. In a few weeks, they produce flowers and pods with edible peas. The trellis must be sturdy enough to support the row of peas, but have thin center sections to allow the tiny vines to completely attach themselves. Popular materials for trellises include plastic netting, interwoven bamboo, sticks, wire, or mesh. It is even possible to use other plants as trellis materials, as long as the plants use complementary nutrients and do not fight the peas for light and water.
Traditional pea trellises are wooden or metal support stakes with a lattice or mesh material hung between. Some pea growers use A-frame trellises and grow peas on either side of the frame to save room in the garden and maximize growing space. Other trellises have decorative features with a grow box at the base and iron or wooden scrollwork along the sides and base. Poles made from bamboo or rebar are also used as supports to grow peas, as well as teepee–shaped trellis designs with peas planted along the base on all sides.
Regardless of the design, a pea trellis generally makes the harvesting of mature pea pods easier by lifting them off of the ground and making them more visible to pickers. Peas left to grow along the ground can be thick and difficult to maneuver around for harvesting and watering. Generally, when grown on a pea trellis, pea crops will be healthier and more productive because of the improved access to sunlight and air circulation.