Let’s say it: Winter is a drag for gardeners. It’s too wet and cold to get out and actually do any gardening, and there isn’t much growing anyway.
And you can only read seed catalogs for so long before you go stir crazy! Thank goodness for snow peas, so we can get a little bit of greenery and fresh vegetables even in the coldest parts of winter.
Snow peas are a great vegetable to grow with your kids, because they’re mild in flavor and fun to eat. The kids will sit in the garden and eat them right off the plant, just like they do with strawberries.
Growing Snow Peas: Varieties
We’ve tried several varieties of snow peas over the years, and our favorite is Oregon Sugar Pod II. It’s resistant to mosaic virus and powdery mildew, and it often sets doubles (you get two pea pods from each node).
What’s the difference between snow peas, snap peas, and regular (shelling) peas?
- Snow peas are very flat, with small peas inside. They are eaten whole (pod and all) can be consumed raw or cooked, like in homemade fried rice.
- Shelling peas are taken out of the pods (shelled) and the pods are not eaten. They’re also called English peas or garden peas, and are usually cooked before eating.
- Snap peas are a cross between snow peas and shelling peas. Like snow peas, they are eaten pod and all. Snap peas can be cooked or eaten raw.
Growing Snow Peas: Sun, Water, Soil
Even though snow peas grow in the fall and winter (hence the name snow peas), they still need several hours of sun each day. They won’t grow well in full or partial shade.
Most varieties of snow peas need a trellis for the vines to climb on. This doesn’t have to be fancy; you can use sticks and twine or tack some trellis netting to the fence and let ’em grow.
You can grow snow peas in containers, but you’ll need to add a trellis or use a container that has a trellis. Container plants need frequent watering and sometimes require special fertilizer. Learn more about container gardening here.
Growing Snow Peas: Planting & Spacing
Snow peas like it cold! Plant the seeds 4-6 weeks before your average last frost, or when the soil is consistently over 40F. (50-60F is better).
While it’s tempting to plant them an inch or two apart, snow peas will grow better when spaced 3-4 inches apart. There are a few reasons for this:
- When the plants are too crowded, they compete for soil nutrients.
- If one of the plants gets powdery mildew or is infested with pests, the problem will spread quickly between plants.
- If they’re planted too close together, you’ll end up with a giant tangle of plants on your trellis and will not be able to harvest effectively. Ahem.
Growing Snow Peas: Pests, Diseases, Companion Plants
There are only a few pests you have to watch out for when growing snow peas. Cutworms can munch your seedlings, so I like to use little TP tube forts around the seeds when planting. Aphids could be a concern, but I don’t usually see them until the weather gets warmer. If you see aphids, blast them off with a spray of water from the hose or release ladybugs to gobble them up.
Because you’re growing snow peas in a cool, wetter time of year, watch out for problems like root rot and powdery mildew. Be attentive to watering and plant spacing–if plants are crowded (see above), mildew can spread quickly.
When you’re gardening, some plants grow better together and some should be kept apart. I learned this from Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, which is a must-read for vegetable gardeners.
Peas grow well with carrots, radishes, corn, beans, potatoes, and cucumbers (they can share a trellis). They do not like to be planted near onions or garlic.
Growing Snow Peas: Harvesting
Snow peas are ready to harvest relatively soon after planting–most varieties begin producing in about 60 days. You can pick them anytime after the peas start forming, when the pods are a couple of inches long. Don’t wait until the peas get too fat. They taste best (and are at their most tender) when the peas are just little bumps inside the pod.
You’ll need to pick your peas every few days. The vines are delicate, so hold the vine with one hand and pull the pod off with the other. Insert directly into mouth. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. 😉
Have you grown snow peas? Does your harvest make it into the house, or do you eat them right in the garden?