Days to germination: 10 to 12 days
Days to harvest: 60 to 100 days
Light requirements: Full sun to light shading
Water requirements: Regular watering
Soil: Added inoculant can help (see below)
Container: Bush varieties work best
Of all the pea varieties out there, the sugar snap pea is quickly becoming one of the most popular type because you don’t need to shell the peas out of their pods. You still can of course, but the sweet edible pods mean a less time-consuming crop since you can just eat the peas and pod together.
These shouldn’t be confused with snow peas either. Snow peas are grown for their flat (and somewhat empty) pods, but sugar snap peas do have full-sized peas within the pods.
There are varieties that will require a trellis or support, but some are the bush-type that should stand fine on their own. Maturity dates come in a wide range, so you can choose peas that are ready to eat in just 2 months, or those that will take more than 3.
Sugar snap peas are delicious either raw or cooked, and they provide a good source of folic acid and vitamins B1, K and C.
Starting from Seed
Peas of all types have delicate root systems, so it’s not recommended that you try to start seedlings for later transplant. Since peas are already planted very early in the season, there is usually little need to get a head-start for your plants.
You can put your pea seed out as soon as your weather has warmed the soil enough to thaw. If you can dig, then you can plant. This will usually be 4 to 6 weeks before your expected final frost date. The only downside to such early planting is that the seeds can be prone to rotting. Most pea seed is sold treated with fungicide to counteract this, but you can buy untreated seed if you prefer. If you do so, you should sow heavily because more of your seed will rot before sprouting.
Prepare your soil with a thorough digging (particularly if you are in an area where the ground freezes solid over the winter). One addition you may want to make is inoculant. You can buy it at any garden store, and it’s a natural additive that helps with peas’ natural ability to take up nitrogen from the soil. It’s not necessary, but pea plants can grow much better with a sprinkling of inoculant added at planting.
Vining peas can be planted closer together than bushing peas, so plan your space out accordingly. Bush peas will need about a foot of space between each plant, but vining peas can really just be sown along a row without worrying about the exact space. They can tolerate being very close to each as long as they have room to grow upwards. Either way, the seeds need to be about an inch under the soil.
Don’t let your plants totally dry out, but peas are generally fine with regular rainfall. Give them a good drink once a week if it hasn’t been raining.
If you are growing peas that vine, you’ll want a trellis or some other kind of support to hold up the vines. It’s best to have this in place soon after planting so you don’t damage the plants later on.
Peas grow quickly and can usually outpace the weeds, but keep your pea patch fairly weed-free as the summer progresses. Roots are shallow and tender, so don’t dig too deeply with a hoe around the plants.
Sugar snap peas can be grown fine in containers, but you’ll have the best success with bush variety. Peas that are naturally more dwarf are even better. Sugar Ann is particularly excellent for containers, and it matures very quickly too (less than 60 days).
Pots should be at least 12″ across and 12″ deep for each pea plant. Even potted plants will benefit from the same inoculant mentioned above. Just add some to the soil as per the package directions.
Potted peas have the added bonus that you can move them during the hotter months into a shadier location, extending the life (and productivity) of your plants.
Pests and Diseases
Pea moths are the biggest insect pest for peas, though it’s actually their caterpillar larvae that do the damage not the moths themselves. Moths lay their eggs on your pea plants, just in time for the grubs to eat your developing peas. Insect sprays can help, but you can also plant early maturing peas as well. They usually grow their peas before the pea moth is out.
Because the pods are less tough than regular green peas, they are more vulnerable to chewing insect pests such as slugs and even cucumber beetles. Pick off these bugs when you see them, and spray your plants with natural pyrethrin insecticides to keep them away.
Harvest and Storage
It’s at harvest time that sugar snap peas are different from traditional shelling peas. Once the pods start to develop, you don’t necessarily have to wait until the peas inside have grown. You can start to pick your sugar snap peas whenever you wish, though you’ll get more of a crop if you wait until the peas have started to fill out the pod.
Hot weather will kill your plants, so as the temperature goes up, you’ll find your plants will stop producing new pea pods. If you can give your plants some shade, they will keep producing for a longer period. Yield can widely vary depending on the plant type, but in general you will get more peas from vines than bushes.
Fresh, they can be stored in the fridge for about 2 weeks before they start to go limp. For longer storage you can can or freeze them. They can be frozen intact or you can just freeze the shelled peas if you prefer. Either way, you will need to blanche them in boiling water for a minute or two before freezing so they retain their color and texture.