Pritha Golden Steele
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February 9, 2024

How to Grow Sugar Snap Peas

Seed or start?

Once your soil is well amended with fresh compost and fertilizer you may ask yourself “should I plant seeds or starts?” We typically recommend growing peas by seed because they grow so well by seed, and a low quality start runs the risk of stunting your plants. Another advantage of growing peas by seed is that you get to choose from a MUCH wider variety of options and get exactly the kind you want, or have fun exploring new varieties. When planting by seed, just make sure to plant your seeds with appropriate depth, spacing and water.

That being said, when grown from a high quality start, peas can do very well and you should choose what is right for you. If you buy pea starts just make sure to select smaller plants, ideally about 1”-2” tall. The fragile roots of larger starts can be damaged during the transplant process. If the plants are even a little tall, leggy, yellow or rootbound you are much better off going with seed.

Plant selection

When selecting your peas make sure to read the label and learn what the height of the plant is. If you have a sizable trellis that is 4 or more feet tall, you can grow a standard vining pea. The advantage of this is that the peas make excellent use of vertical space in the garden, producing lots of food but only taking up minimal bed space. If you do not have a trellis, you will want to select a dwarfing variety.

Our favorite pea varieties

Sugar snap pea

  • Super Sugar Snap – very reliable, prolific producer and unmatched flavor
  • Sugar Ann  – early producer and a good productivity for a smaller plant

Snow Pea

  • Oregon Sugar Pod II - produces big, plump delicious pea pods

Shelling pea

  • Green Arrow  - prolific producer of very sweet flavorful peas

Timing of planting and protection

Peas are one of the earliest seeds you can plant in our climate. We often plant our peas in February or early March under a frost blanket. The frost blanket does two essential things: 1) it keeps the seeds warm promoting germination, and 2) it protects the peas from hungry birds and rodents. Without this protective cover, the peas are very vulnerable to predation. Make sure your peas are in the ground by the end of April at the latest, as they are not heat loving plants.

Location of planting and care

Peas will do well to be planted in a sunny location at the north end of a garden bed. Planting peas to the north of shorter plants avoids shading out the other veggies, increasing yields and plant health. The more that ranging pea branches are reattached to the trellis, or pulled in with twine, the smaller the footprint of peas in the garden bed. This practice is an excellent way to maximize the productivity in your garden. The smaller the space, the more impactful these practices will be.

Harvest and enjoy

The best part of growing peas is eating them! Hopefully you learned a few things that will help increase your success growing peas in the garden and this season you have a wonderful harvest!

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