Few vegetables are as useful and tasty as snow peas. Their ability to grow quickly and provide a versatile harvest makes snow peas a must-have in your garden.
That’s why learning how to grow snow peas can be such a rewarding experience. As soon as you see the pods hanging in spring, ready to be eaten, you’ll know the effort was always worth it.
But to do all that, you’ll have to know exactly what to focus on – from choosing the ideal variety to planting in the right soil, plus much more.
We’ll go over every single factor that matters so you can make these legumes thrive and produce a life-giving yield. Want to learn these factors? Then hop below!
What are Snow Peas?
Let’s first give you a heads-up. Snow peas are legumes. Like beans and other peas, they grow in pods. These pods contain dozens of these beans. In contrast with other legumes, however, snow peas are ready to be eaten directly from the pod, without cooking.
What is the plant like? Well, it’s called “Pisum sativum var. macrocarpum” scientifically. This name comes from the pea family “Pisum sativum,” containing hundreds of different species of peas. The snow pea is one of the most popular.
It is believed that snow peas were first grown in Asia. Thus, they’re often called “Chinese peas.” However, they’re also found in Africa and Europe.
For that reason, you can pretty much figure out they aren’t the hardest species to grow. But they still require a bit of effort. Mainly, you just need to do the following:
How to Grow Snow Peas – 14 Tips
1. Choose the Ideal Growing Method
At first, it’s all about choosing whether you want to grow the peas from seed or seedlings. There’s a huge difference here because seeds are often easy to plant and grow rapidly with the ideal conditions. But seedlings are a bit harder, mainly because the plant doesn’t like transplantation too much.
There’s an excellent point to make here, though: seedlings grow a lot quicker. While planting from seeds requires 50 to 70 days to start producing pods, seedlings will give peas as soon as 40 days from planting.
What are you choosing then? If you want easier growth, go for seeds. But if you desire quickness, pick seedlings.
2. Pick a Good-Enough Cultivar
While not necessary to grow snow peas properly, picking the right cultivar will help you enjoy the harvest more.
There are tons to go for, like Golden Sweet, the Oregon Giant, Oregon Sugar Pod, and the Mammoth Melting Sugar.
All these varieties have different sizes and growth periods. For example, Golden Sweet takes over 60 days to produce harvestable pods. Yet, the vine can grow to 6 feet. Interestingly, the pods are often yellow, thus the “Golden” on the name.
An Oregon Giant plant grows no more than 4 feet and matures at up to 70 days. The pod, however, grows larger than other varieties. This is where the name comes from.
With Oregon Sugar Pod, you get a similar experience than with the Oregon Giant. The plants grow to about 3 feet, the pods are big and fully mature at 70 days.
And lastly, the Mammoth Melting Sugar produces the largest pods, but the plant doesn’t typically grow past 4 feet. Similar to other varieties, it is ready at 70 days from planting.
3. Plant in the Right Season
Regardless of the variety you picked, and what type of planting method you’re using, it is vital to start in the perfect season. Otherwise, you’ll have trouble helping the plant thrive.
And what is this season? Generally, before the spring arrives but close to the last frost. If you plant too early, the frosts will eventually make it harder for the seeds to grow. And the same will happen to any seedling.
Generally, they need the soil to be no less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything colder than that will make it harder for the peas to survive.
For the best results, start at about 4 weeks before the last frost if you’re using seedlings. In the case of seeds, begin at 6 weeks before the last frost.
4. Find a Sufficiently Sunny Place
Even though snow pea plants thrive in cold environments, they require a lot of sunlight. This typically means between 6 and 8 hours a day. If you can place them anywhere with that kind of sun exposure, the plant will likely grow bigger and healthier.
In fact, if you plant the seeds in a sufficiently sunny area, the sprouts will come out as quick as only 8 days. In contrast, it could take over 14 days with no sun.
5. Use a Well-Drained Soil
Apart from finding a place where the sun reaches for enough time, it’s vital to use soil that drains well. Snow peas like cold environments with proper humidity, but they develop diseases if the soil stays damp for too long.
At the same time, make sure to prepare the soil before planting. This often means loosening it up so the seeds can sprout safely. You’ll know the soil is ready when you drop a fork vertically, and it maintains the position.
6. Keep it Fertilized
Alongside well-drained soil, you need sufficient fertilizer. While peas can grow with pretty much any soil, they prefer when the soil is sufficiently fertilized.
The best solution, however, is to just add compost, sulfate, or dolomite. Any addition to the soil that adds up to its nutrient availability will be enough.
Snow peas love slightly acidic soils. Adding the compost to make the soil a bit more acidic (about 6 pH) will be an excellent idea.
7. Don’t Plant in Already-Used Soil
It doesn’t matter how well-drained and fertilized the soil is; you need to use healthy soil for the best results.
What does this mean? If in previous seasons the soil was used to grow other legumes, it will be dangerous. Diseases and fungi that prey on snow peas may still be around.
The best way to ensure the plant doesn’t get infected after planting is to sterilize the soil.
8. Pick a Sufficiently Large Container
Snow peas like to grow tall and wide. On top of that, they are vine-like, climbing and crawling around. If you don’t use an appropriate container, it will overgrow fast.
That’s why you must focus on containers of no less than 12 inches for snow peas. The plant shouldn’t grow too much in the right place and still produce an excellent harvest after a couple of months.
Small snow pea plants like Oregon Sugar Pod can be an excellent addition to your balcony garden, for example.
9. Use the Right Companion Plants
If you’re planting directly on garden soil, you can always help it with the right companions. This includes the entire family of brassicas, like kale and brussels sprouts. But you can still use other vegetables like garlic, onion, and turnip. For a tastier pod, planting alongside mints can be an excellent idea.
Black-eyed peas and other legumes also make for excellent companions, as long as you’re planting them at the same time. This increases the amount of nitrogen in the soil, helping them grow further and quicker.
10. Plant Safely and Carefully
Once you’re ready picking a part of the garden, preparing the ideal soil, and making sure the seeds or seedlings are ready – then you can start planting.
For this, however, we recommend making a small hole first. This hole should be no more than 1 inch deep (for seeds) or 3 inches (for seedlings). You can drop the seeds and/or sprout in right away.
It is vital to cover the seeds completely. For better results, tap the soil lightly to compact it. Use your hands and be careful not to cause unwanted damage. Then it’s all a matter of waiting.
11. Water Consistently but Carefully
While you wait for the plant to grow, it is vital to avoid dry soil. But you shouldn’t water too much either.
The best thing you can do is start watering weekly once the plant reaches 3 inches in height. About twice a week should be enough in humid areas. For places where it rarely rains and the weather is dry, water once a day.
To find the perfect balance, you can add a mulch layer and water only once a week. The mulch will retain the moisture and make it possible to irrigate less. Avoid mulch if you already live in a humid area or you’re planting in a rainy season.
12. Give it a Structure to Climb On
Like we said before, snow peas grow like vines. They like to crawl and climb. If you give them somewhere to do so, they will grow larger and healthier.
Often, nothing works better than a trellis base. A wooden trellis structure or part of a wire fence would be more than enough to give the plant a place to grow. But you can always use stakes, poles, or sticks, and the plant should be fine.
This doesn’t happen with all varieties, though—some like growing in bushes, like the Golden Sweet. But the rest will enormously benefit from having a place to make a trellis on.
13. Keep it Safe from External Dangers
Once you’ve planted the plants and it starts growing, you’ll have to keep it safe. Snow peas are incredibly fragile against thrips, mites, and caterpillars.
If you live in a place with tons of moths or butterflies, you may want to protect the plant with a fence or cover. Similarly, you can always use pesticides to increase its safety and keep away unwanted insects.
At the same time, don’t let it froze. Snow peas, while resistant to low temperatures, don’t like freezing environments below zero. Keep it indoors or protected from snow and frosts if possible.
14. Harvest to Ensure Growth
The plant will be ready for harvest between 8 to 10 weeks from the moment you planted it. When this moment arrives, you shouldn’t leave any pod hanging.
If you pick the pods as soon as they mature, you’d be promoting further growth. This also extends the flowering season, helping the plant produce even more pods.
The advantage is that snow pea plants produce many edible pods you can eat as soon as you take them from the plant and can be stored for weeks if necessary. There’s no drawback from harvesting them consistently.
As soon as you feel familiar with how to grow snow peas, you’ll have an easy time making them thrive. This species is not necessarily picky, which is a massive advantage if you’re a beginner.
Regardless of your experience, however, make sure to follow all our advice above. We’ve gathered the most useful and to-the-point info to start growing snow peas right away.
So, are you looking to get your gardening to the next level with a legume like this? Follow every tip to the letter, and you’ll do so!