Peas have long been a favourite early vegetable for gardeners. Once germinated, you can harvest peas for your dinner in 50 to 60 days. Though there are several varieties of peas to grow, including sugar, snap and shelling, all pea plants prefer and thrive in cooler weather, diminishing production and dying when the weather becomes hot. Because of the relatively short growing period, jump starting your pea seeds by first soaking allows you to harvest your peas sooner.
Each pea seed contains the embryo of a plant inside, waiting to burst forth once the proper conditions are present. The hard exterior of a pea seed protects the embryo from damage and early germination which would kill the plant. But that same hard exterior can make it difficult for water and nutrients to penetrate the seed, waking up the embryo to begin germination. Soaking your pea seeds before planting will soften the outer layer of the seed, making it easier, and faster, for the embryo to germinate and produce a pea plant.
Soaking your pea seeds before planting will increase and speed up germination, but even with soaking, if you plant your peas too early in the season, the seeds may not germinate to produce pea plants. Soaking pea seeds gives an advantage if you plan to plant the seeds when your soil is a consistent 10 to 12.8 degrees Celsius. Lower soil temperatures decrease the chances your soaked pea seeds will germinate, resulting in the plant embryo in the seeds dying in the colder ground.
To effectively soak your pea seeds, place the hard seeds in a low bowl or dish that is filled with room temperature water. Soak your pea seeds from 12 to 24 hours, but no longer. Extended soaking will burst and split the outer covering of the seed, weaken the seed, exposing it to bacteria and other harmful elements. Dissolving one half tablet of a 150 milligram vitamin C tablet in a quart of water and soaking your seeds can increase the vigour of the germinated seedlings and promote growth, according to a May 2007 article in the journal "Bioresource Technology."
After soaking your pea seeds in the water and vitamin C mix, immediately coat the seeds with a legume bacterial innoculant, usually a black powder, that is harmless to humans but will help your pea seeds take up nitrogen and other needed nutrients in the soil. Also, along with planting when the soil temperature is at least 10 degrees C, make sure your soil is not overly soggy, which may cause the pea seeds to rot.