Growing Snow Peas
Snow peas are one of the earliest treats to come out of the garden. Eat them straight off the vine for a sweet and crisp snack, cook them into a stir-fry, glaze them, or toast them with almonds. This fast-growing vegetable is easy to grow and provides a satisfying harvest when other vegetables are still in infancy.
Planting Snow Peas
There are many methods of knowing when it’s best to plant the first peas. Some climates plant on George Washingtons birthday, February 22nd. Others plant in the fall. Most guides will say plant when the ground can be worked in the spring.
The best way of determining when to plant is using a soil thermometer. The soil should be at an average of 40°F (4°C) for pea seeds to germinate. Soak the seeds for 24 hours prior to planting in a bowl of water at room temperature. This will speed up germination.
A bacterial inoculant is available for peas and beans at garden supply shops. This is only necessary if your soil is sterile, a store-bought soil may benefit from using the inoculant. If your garden soil has life in it then it likely contains the bacteria already.
Adding living compost will also inoculate garden soil with beneficial rhizobial bacteria. Plant peas 1 inch apart and 2 inches deep. Water them in thoroughly and keep the soil moist from then on.
Snow Pea Care
When plants have emerged, thin them to 4-inch spacing. They require a trellis or stake to grow on. Use garden stakes, wire fence pieces, wooden trellises or any number of items to provide something for peas to climb. Varieties like the Mammoth Melting Sugar can grow to heights of 4 feet.
Mulching the soil between the bases of plants after they are established will keep the roots cool and prevent weeds. When flowers appear, the plant benefits from heavier watering. Some popular varieties are:
- Snowbird – 3-inch pod (58 days to harvest)
- Oregon Sugar Pod – 4 1/2 inch pod (68 days to harvest)
- Avelanche – 4-inch pods (60 days to harvest)
- Royal Snow – 3 1/2 inch deep purple pods, (61 days to harvest)
Snow Pea Harvest
As soon as the pods appear they can be picked. Young pods are sweeter and more tender than older pods. Avoid tugging on the vine when harvesting, instead use your fingers to pinch or break the pod off. Harvest snow peas early in the morning or after a rain when they are full of moisture. They will have less of a shelf life if harvested on a hot and sunny day.
Keep snow peas in plastic in the fridge for a few days. Or, blanch them in water and freeze them to preserve the harvest.