First, the easy question. There is no safe planting date. However! My neighbors have learned that the last hard freeze of the winter ALWAYS happens the week AFTER I plant MY veggie garden. So, if you wait until I screw up you should be in pretty good shape.
If you're more of a leader than a follower here are a couple of options:
1) Sow by seed quick-growing peas that mature in 65-80 days.
2) Or, start them indoors. I plant mine in plastic drinking cups. They grow on the deck for the month of May (so I can haul them indoors on an exceptionally cold night.) I put them in the ground around June 15th.
* This is sadly abnormal in comparison to low lander veggie gardeners but mountain growing seasons are on a different timetable. We get started later but we can usually harvest later, too.
There are tons of pea varieties - English peas, snap peas, snow peas (edible pods) and, the most misunderstood of all, the Black Eyed Peas. These are considered beans if you live in the north or a highly entertaining band if you're younger than me.
Kelvedon Wonder ~ one of my favorites. It's a fast growing, tasty variety that shrugs off pea wilt and other disasters. Matures in 65 days.
Sugar Ann and Sugar Mel ~ (Don't they sound like the cutest couple?) Quick, crisp and delicious. Ready for picking in about 60 days.
Alderman (aka Tall Telephone) ~ the yummiest pea you've ever gobbled. They say this big guy requires 75 days - but it's closer to 100. Start him indoors and gift him with a tall fence. He'll climb 8 feet if you let him.
Sun-kissed, vine-ripened, fresh-picked, barely fertilized:
- Peas produce their own nitrogen but they'll love you forever if you give them an extra shot of phosphorus.
- Peas are a cool season veggie. Cool, not cold. Dave's overly-anxious neighbor pushes aside the snow to plant seeds directly into the ground very early. That's a different outcome for the tortoise and the hare. Peas need warmth to sprout so, sure! You can plant them early but they'll wait for warmer weather to germinate. If you plant them later chances are good they'll reach the finish line at about the same time.
Give Peas a Second Chance!
Saving pea seed is simple. Allow the pods to dry until brown on the vines. Hand shell them and plant the following spring.