Growing Snap Peas in Your Garden

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If you want to grow sugar snap peas (or any edible pea), make sure you follow these seven easy tips to get the most out of your garden!

peas on the vine

What You Need to Know About Growing Snap Peas

We love to grow peas in the garden. They are my kids’ favorite vegetables to grow. When my kids are hungry in early summer, I tell them to go to the garden and pick some peas.

And they do! They eat the peas raw and I rarely even cook them. Maybe I need to grow more peas!

Different Kinds of Peas 

Think peas are only green? Think again!Peas come in with astonishing array of options (from super-sweet to purple to plain ole peas).

Each pea variety also has different needs in terms of space, climate, support, soil, and moisture. 

There are three main types of edible peas as well as non-edible, ornamental peas as well.

  • Snap peas – these peas have both edible pods and tender peas as well. They’re delicious steamed, in stir-fry, and also eaten raw.
  • English or shelling peas – these peas are grown for their fat, sweet peas, and their pods are not typically eaten. They are great for freezing and eating fresh.
  • Snow peas – these peas are grown for their pods and are harvested while they’re still flat.

All parts of the pea plants are actually edible including the flowers, the shoots, and the tendrils.

sweet pea flowers

Sweet peas –  On the other hand, sweet peas are NOT edible. They are grown for their gorgeous, sweet-smelling flowers and make lovely bouquets! Do not mistake sweet peas for snap peas as they are poisonous!

How to Choose Pea Varieties to Grow

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by dozens of varieties of sugar snaps, but these criteria should help narrow down your options.

The first criteria should be taste. Select a variety that appeals to your taste buds. Do you prefer more or less sweet? Fat or flat? Quick growing or a little slower?

Next, read the descriptions of these seed varieties carefully and consider how suited each variety is to your particular climate. You might consider bushing types of peas or peas that need trellis support. 

You might also want to look at days to maturity as a selection criteria as well. Most seed companies have online catalogs and will also provide mail-order catalogs free of charge. 

Reading through the seed descriptions in the winter is a great way to find new varieties and help you make it to spring. Find our favorite seed catalogs to puruse here!

basket of peas

Our Favorite Heirloom Peas to Grow

  • Green Arrow – We love eating the lovely shelling peas fresh from the vine and they’re also great for freezing. These productive bushing type plants only reach 28″ tall. The pods set in pairs for easy harvesting. Great for fresh eating and freezing. Disease resistance to leaf curl virus, downy mildew, root rot, and fusarium wilt.
  • Sugar Magnolia Snap Peas – We love the beautiful purple flowers and peas on these tall pea plants. Just make sure you have a support structure in place prior to planting. These get super tall, reaching 6’-7’!!
  • Sugar Ann Snaps – Another bush type of snap pea, Sugar Anns are produce 10 days earlier than many other pea varieties. Setting on bushy plants reaching 24-30″, Sugar Ann Snap vines produce heavy yields of 3″ long, crisp, delicious pea pods.
  • Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas – These productive plants are tall and need support – reaching over 4’ tall. They produce large, sweet-flavored pods that you need to pick before the peas inside start to get large. Ready for harvest in about 70 days, these peas are also wilt resistant.
  • Non-Edible Sweet PeasI haven’t grown Sweet Peas for blooms before, but they’re on the list this year. We’re growing several varieties for cut flower bouquets. Like their edible counterparts, sweet peas are sown as soon as the soil reaches 40-45 F and can be worked, usually 4-6 weeks before last frost.

peas on the vine

Hybrid Pea Seeds versus Heirloom Pea Seeds

Note that hybrid seeds are a cross between pea varieties that tend to only grow well for one season.

If you plan to save peas from this year’s crop to seed your garden next year, then select an heirloom variety. 

If you still have trouble making up your mind, then order more than one variety and experiment. Just ask my kids: you can never have too many peas in the garden!

Growing Sugar Snap Peas and any other types of peas is really easy, but these seven tips will help get your crop off to the best possible start.

sugar magnolia snap peas

7 Tips for Growing Snap Peas from Seeds

Now the growing tips! Follow them for a bumper pea harvest! 🙂

Prepare The Soil

Peas, like most garden vegetables, prefer rich, loose soil with good drainage. You will need to prepare the soil prior to planting by breaking up hard topsoil with a garden tiller or other cultivation tools to a depth of 6-10 inches.

If a soil test reveals a deficiency, then you may need to use compost fertilizer to improve the quality of your garden soil. For most home gardeners, the need for fertilizer can be greatly reduced by keeping a compost bin throughout the year and working composted material into the soil before planting.

Plant peas as early in the spring as you can

Peas like a lot of sun, but they are a cool weather plant. That means, they can tolerate low temperatures and even a little bit of frost. However, high summer temperatures (over about 85F) are known to scorch the temperature-sensitive pea plants. Time the planting of your peas at the first signs of spring or at the very tail end of summer.

Once soil temperatures reach 45F, you can plant the seeds directly in the ground. Test your soil’s temperature with a garden thermometer. If you don’t have one, I recommend getting one!

Generally speaking, peas can be planted as soon as four to six weeks before your last spring frost date. For my zone 5 garden, that means I can plant peas as early as late March or early April, depending on the soil temperatures. 

If you don’t know your frost date, make sure to check it out here.

Soak seeds overnight

Soaking your seeds in water overnight for 12 -24 hours can improve germination rates.

more peas and a trellis

Provide a trellis or some sort of support

Most peas, even the bushy short peas, will benefit from some sort of trellis. We’ve used everything from an old fence gate, to my garden fence, to a cattle panel. My preferred trellis is the fence gate – but having to rotate crops every year means my peas grow on a variety of supports. 

Growing on a trellis also makes harvest easier and increases airflow for your plants which helps reduce potential diseases. You can plant peas along both sides of the trellis.

Follow planting directions on the seed packet

There is a science to growing peas. The parameters of that science are things like the planting depth, the spacing of the plants, and soil temperatures. The directions on the seed packet are a gardener´s best guide to getting the seeds to germinate and flourish – follow them exactly as written.

Peas Do Well in Garden Beds

Since peas can be planted so early in the spring, raised garden beds are the perfect place for them to grow. They warm up faster than the main garden bed and have better drainage making them the ideal growing spot.

garden harvest bowl

Companion plants for sugar snap peas

Growing sugar snap peas is easier with the help of companion plants. Companion plants are often herbs or flowers that provide benefits to each other by keeping down pests, helping with pollination, providing habitat for beneficial insects and more.

Beneficial companion plants for peas include cilantro, mint, radish, lettuce, spinach, corn, beans, and cucumber. Learn more about companion planting here.

Conversely, do not plant peas next to onions or potatoes.

With a little luck and cooperation from mother nature, you could be enjoying a bowl of garden-fresh peas in about 60 days. Make sure to involve children if you have, and enjoy growing sugar snap peas!

If you enjoyed this post on growing sugar snap peas, you might like these posts too:

11 Must Know Tips for Growing Tomatoes

Top 10 Plants for an Early Spring Harvest

Grab my free printable seed envelope template here.

Get Your Zone 5 Garden Ready for Spring

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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