Growing Snap Peas

All you need to know about growing snap peas, growing conditions and harvesting tips. There will also be a great Dutch pea soup recipe included.

Fresh snap peas are both amazingly healthy and taste much better when grown in your own garden. The snap peas are different from regular peas in that their pods, along with the peas, can be eaten, similar with the snow and sugar peas. Peas grow best during cold weather, moist growing conditions. Any temperature above 30 degrees Celsius will not be very good to the pod set since the pollen in the flower will die at that high temperature and there will be much lower yields. Temperatures of about 7 to 24 degrees Celsius would be the best for the snap peas. Peas like sunny locations so make sure they get some sun most of the day.

The peas are usually sown in cool temperature in either spring or fall. A good time to plant the peas is from March to May (which is about four to six weeks before the last spring frost), and from September to mid-January on the tablelands. To spread out the harvest the plantings can be staggered over the sowing period. The soil should be well drained with a pH between about 5.8 and 6.8. To prepare the soil for growing the peas mix some wood ash, or compost into the soil working it into the ground carefully. One of the traditional ways to prepare the soil is to work in fine tilt, which is often still popular today. The easiest way to plant the peas is to make small trenches after working through the soil to make it more light and oxidized. These trenches should be about 1.5 inches deep and 30 inches apart. Place 1 or two seeds every two inches in the trench and carefully fill them up with earth. Then water the seeds and germination will take place after about 10 days. The best temperature range for germination is around 22 degrees Celsius, anything above 24 degrees Celsius would make for rapid germination, but the yields will not necessarily increase because there will be more soil-borne diseases. As soon as the plants are about one or two inches tall thin them so there will just be one seedling per every two inches. Some of the snap peas are usually in need of some sort of support since they like to climb and might break off if there is wind in your area. Usually things such as two-wire tomato trellises can be used which are placed about 20 cm apart. If the plants grow higher add another wire to the top about 20 cm above the last one. Other then that pea stakes, twine and chicken wire have also proved successful ways to keep the peas off the ground and away from diseases, as well as safe from the wind.

During the growing season keep the peas moist but make sure you don't over water them. The peas main nutrients are phosphorus and small amounts of nitrogen. If your soil is naturally nutritious don't add anything else, but if not add in some fertilizer with the water every two or three weeks. Once way to tell whether your plant is getting enough nutrients is to judge from its color. If the color is pale green you will need to give the peas some more nitrogen. Especially the sugar snap peas will require a higher amount of nitrogen then other kinds. Try to keep the weeks at bay by hoeing, and picking the weeds by hand if necessary.

When you see that the pods are filling out you can harvest the sugar snap peas. This will happen about eight to ten days after pollination. A good way to harvest the peas is to break them from the stem, being careful not to injure the plant they come from. This variety can be harvested in two to five picks in total and the pod will still be tender even if the pod is fully developed and like normal garden peas in appearance. Snow snap peas are much different though. The pods must be completely flat without any development of the seeds for the best result. At this stage the snow peas contain no cross-fibers and the entire pod can be eaten. If you let the snow snap peas develop past this size the peas have to be extracted and the pods discarded. Only pick the large flat peas and let the other once mature for a longer time. Harvesting should be done every two or three days for the best results.

Some for the main diseases that affect green peas are mycosphaerella blight, foot rot, downy mildew, fusarium wilt, viruses, powdery mildew, top yellow, bacterial blight and pepper spot. To avoid most of these make sure you plant the peas early when the temperatures are still low, and it will be much easier to keep the diseases at bay since the soil won't carry them and multiply them as much when it is still cool. Insects that are most likely to be pests to your peas are the onion thrips, blue oat mites, earth mites, seed corn maggots, aphids, slugs, cutworms and budworms. To help guard against these diseases it will help to inoculate the seeds with rhizobia bacteria. If there is frost the vines may be able to withstand it, but the pods will have more trouble. After harvesting the peas can be de-stringed like varieties of string beans.

To help make your peas edible all winter long blanch them in salted water, fill them into double bagged zip-lock freezer bags, and freeze them for up to one year. A good way to use your peas is in stir-fries, as a side dish, and even as an appetizer with meat in the inside. Whatever you decide to do with the peas, enjoy them and be healthy!

Here is a great way to cook the peas with this Dutch pea soup recipe:


3 C peas

1 C finely chopped ham

1 Onion

4 toes of Garlic

1 tbs. butter

3 chopped potatoes

1 cup milk

1/2 cup cream

1 can of chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the butter, add the chopped onion and garlic and ham and cook until the onions are glossy. Add all other ingredients except for the milk, cook for at least 30 minutes and process in a food blender in small portions. Bring to a boil and add the milk and cream and serve immediately, garnishing with fresh sprigs of basil. Don't stir very much after adding the milk and cream since the two toned color will give an interesting marble appeal to the soup.

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