Growing snow peas is an easy process that starts early in the spring and can even be done in the fall. This growing guide will give you the basics needed to get a great crop of snow peas this year.
Like most of my growing guides, this one on growing snow peas is meant to give you general information to get you started. Growing conditions will vary based on the region you live in, but this guide will give you all the basics to get you started growing snow peas.
What are Snow Peas?
There are 3 general types of peas:
1. Shelling peas – which are grown for the round peas inside the pod. The pods of shelling peas are not eatable.
2. Snap peas – These peas can be eaten at any stage, both the pod and the peas inside are eatable.
3. Snow Peas – These tasty treats are grown primarily for their eatable pods. The pods are usually flatter and when the peas inside do develop they never fill up the pod like the other two. Although eatable at any stage, snow peas are usually harvested while the pods are fairly small and tender.
The most important thing to know when growing snow peas is that they are a cool season crop. This means that snow peas prefer to grow in temperatures lower than 80 degrees. (27 Celsius). Spring is the ideal time for growing snow peas, but they also do well in the fall. In fact in our area where the fall is warm and short, they are the most successful pea to plant in the fall. To learn more about the difference between cool and warm season crops read this post.
Growing Snow Peas
Planting area and soil
Peas will grow best in a sunny spot. Snow peas seem to tolerate a little less sun than other peas, but you should still shoot for a spot that gets at least 8 hours of sun light per day.
Peas also prefer fertile well drained soil that is slightly alkaline. If you live in an area with acidic soil you may consider adding some lime to your soil. Snow peas also do well when grown in containers and can be quite attractive as container plants with a decorative trellis.
Plant your snow peas as early as possible in the spring. As soon as you are able to work the soil you can plant peas. Warming the soil first using this trick will help them get off to a quick start. I try to get my peas in the ground about 60 days before my average last frost date. This will give them plenty of cool spring weather to grow in.
Fall planting dates are a little harder to nail down. Pea plants themselves are very frost tolerant, but the pods are less tolerant of frost. You want to get them planted soon enough so that there is not a big danger of super cold temps when the crops mature. I target 60 days before the first fall frost date. This usually means it is still quite hot when they are planted, the hotter summer weather usually means fall crops are not as productive.
Plant snow pea seeds directly in the soil as soon as the soil is dry enough to be worked. Peas are planted 1 inch deep and space about 2 inches a part. Once the plants have germinated you can thin them as needed. You can eat the thinnings. They are great in salads and can also be stir fried. But having said that, I seldom thin my peas. Peas do well when planted closely together so I don’t usually bother.
Peas need about an inch of water per week. The nice thing about spring around our place is that I seldom have to water because of our spring rains.
Drip irrigation is always the best method for watering your plants (learn more about my drip system here). It is especially important to keep your peas well watered when they are blooming and producing fruit.
Of course water is super important when planting a fall crop. The heat of late summer will require watering at least twice a week.
Most snow peas varieties are vining and will require the support of some type of trellis. Pea vines climb pretty well on their own and really don’t require a lot of tending. But you do need to offer them something to climb on.
I’m all for simple so most years I just put some tomato cages out between the rows of snow peas. This has always worked well for me, the peas are done before I really need the cages on the tomatoes.
But snow peas lend themselves to growing on many different types of trellis’. The important part is that you use something to keep the plants up off the ground. Growing on a trellis will increase production and reduce disease.
You will know harvest time is coming when your snow peas start to flower. Once you start to see flowers you should begin checking for pods about a week later.
Remember that snow peas are at their best when the pod is 2 to 3 inches long and the peas inside have not started to develop. If you wait too long the pods get tougher and are not as tasty. Although they are still eatable at any stage, they are better when they are young.
Once the harvest begins, plan on picking every day! You should be out harvesting daily to make sure your peas don’t slip past that perfect stage!!
To harvest simply pinch the vine directly above the pod, or if you give the plant a little support you can simply pull the pod from the vine.
Snow peas are fantastic eaten fresh!! And that is how we eat most of ours. They will last up to a week if kept in the fridge. They are also perfect for stir fry!!
If you find yourself overwhelmed with too many snow peas to eat fresh they can be easily frozen. Simply blanch them either in boiling water or with a steam basket for 3 minutes. Then freeze them flat on a cookie sheet over night. They can then be stored in freezer bags in a deep freeze for up to 12 months.
Growing snow peas is a fairly simple and rewarding crop for your garden. Just a few plants are very productive and they can easily be tucked into any sunny corner of your garden. They even look great and do very well when planted in a flower bed! So get some snow peas planted today!
Here are a few other posts that may help you in your efforts to grow peas in your garden:
Complete Growing Guide for Peas
Growing Peas in the Fall