Experienced gardeners will tell you that growing a crop of sugar snap peas is an excellent way to start your own edible garden. Home-grown sugar snaps are much sweeter, more succulent, and far tastier than anything you can grab from a grocery shelf.
You can choose from climbing or bush sugar snap pea varieties. Bush peas can grow to three feet tall. You’ll need to provide the plants with something to climb on or they’ll sprawl across the ground.
Climbing varieties can reach six to eight feet tall. These varieties require trellises. The pea tendrils will wrap around supports that are about ¼ inch in diameter. To help the plants climb, you will need to add twine, string, a wire mesh, or netting to the trellis.
Growing Sugar Snap Peas
Sugar snaps thrive in soil that is rich in organic nutrients. In some areas, you can plant pea seeds in the summer, about two months before the first fall frost.
In warm regions, plant the seeds in an area that gets full morning sun and partial shade during the hottest hours of the day.
If you live in a cool climate, plant the seeds directly into the garden after the last spring frost. Be sure to plant your crop in a well-draining spot that receives full sun for most of the day.
Here’s how to grow sugar snaps in your backyard.
Planting Sugar Snap Seeds
Plant the pea seeds 1 to 1½ inches deep into the soil. The seeds should be about 2 inches apart but you should allow 18 to 24 inches between rows. Otherwise, follow the directions on the seed package for the variety you’re growing. Rows of bush sugar snaps can usually be planted 12 to 18 inches apart.
Extremely cold, nutrient-poor soil may not have the nitrogen that sugar snaps require to grow to a healthy size. A sprinkling of natural inoculant over the soil prior to planting will remedy the problem. These compounds may also help if your plants develop at a slow rate.
Caring for the Plants
Sugar snap peas are a remarkably low maintenance crop. Most varieties will sprout within 10 days of sowing the seeds. The plants will survive on the moisture of occasional rainfall.
If you live in a hot, dry area, weekly watering should suffice to grow a healthy crop. Remember to use just enough water to thoroughly wet the top layer of soil.
Pea moth caterpillars, slugs, and cucumber beetles like to feed on the leaves and pods of flowering pea plants. You can pick these critters off by hand.
You can also make home-made pesticide with water, a little vegetable oil, and a few drops of mild liquid detergent in a spray bottle. Simply blast any pests that invade your vegetable patch with the mixture.
Harvesting Sugar Snap Peas
Your sugar snap peas crop will be ready for harvest six to eight weeks after sowing. Harvest them while the pods are green and still tender. Snap off the tough ends, pull off any strings, and eat the entire pods or just the peas inside.
Sugar snap peas grow fast. Check them often and harvest as frequently as necessary or the pods will become starchy and tough. They will eventually lose their sweet flavor. Harvesting often also encourages the plants to produce more pods.
Here’s a helpful tip. Sugar snaps are part of the legume family of vegetables, which store nitrogen in little nodules in their roots. Dig the roots directly into the soil when the plants finish cropping and they will slowly release the nitrogen for other plants to use.