Fresh garden peas are a gourmet delight. Their natural sweetness diminishes quickly after they're picked so peas are best eaten right off the vine or cooked that day. To experience this wonderful favor, grow your own. Now is the time to plant.

Peas are cool season plants. They must grow in cool spring weather and mature in late May or early June. The plants fail in high heat.

Soak the peas overnight before planting. This allows them to plump up and germinate faster. Sow them in your vegetable garden or in a patio pot. Lightweight plastic pots are best since the plants can be moved to safety in case a late monster snowstorm strikes.

Poke the seeds about an inch deep, with three at the base of a support pole. Use bamboo stakes--fastened at the top to create a tee-pee--or a wire tomato cage. The tendrils will cling to the support.

It's also time to sow seed of other cool season crops such as lettuce, spinach and radish. These may also be grown in the ground or in shallow, bowl-shaped pots. Like peas, these plants can withstand night temperatures as low as 25 F. If it drops lower, shelter them in the garage or porch.

Pansies also benefit from early planting since they also fare badly in hot weather. Other cool season flowers that can be planted now include dianthus, snapdragons, ornamental kale, dusty miller and primroses.