If you’re looking for a veggie you can pop into your mouth straight off the plant and enjoy that satisfying crunch when you bite down, then sugar snap peas are a must-grow for you. Here in Central Texas, home gardeners have two opportunities to grow peas, one in the fall and one in the spring.
Sugar snap peas are one of the easiest vegetables to grow as the weather cools. Follow these tips to grow peas under their preferred growing conditions and set yourself up to harvest pod after crisp, delicious pod.
WHAT ARE SUGAR SNAP PEAS?
Well, by the name alone, we can guess they’re sweet and snappy and a type of pea, or Pisum sativum. Here’s a little more on sugar snaps.
Sugar snap peas were created in the 70s as a cross between two types of peas: shelling peas (think: English peas and green peas) and snow peas. Shelling peas are delicious, but you can only eat the sweet peas inside, not the pod. Snow peas are not the sweetest of pea varieties, but you have the convenience of edible pods.
Thus, sugar snaps combine the best of both pea worlds—you can eat the entire pod, not just the peas inside, and the pod walls are nice and thick, but not too fibrous. The whole pod fruit is crisp and oh so sweet!
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WILL SUGAR SNAP PEAS GROW IN SUMMER?
Not here in Central Texas. Pea plants love cool weather and grow best when the daily high temps are below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so the optimal sugar snap peas season here is the fall and then again in the spring.
Sugar snap plants can handle freezing temps so you don’t have to wait until your last frost date to sow seeds. However, if the plant is blooming during a freeze, the flowers will be damaged and you shouldn’t expect to get fruit from those flowers.
Plant sugar snaps in the fall about 8 to 10 weeks before your first anticipated frost; for those of us in the greater Austin area, that planting time for your fall crop is mid September (late summer) to October.
If you’re growing sugar snaps in the spring, the best time to plant them here is February to take advantage of cool temperatures.
Central Texas Monthly Planting Guide
Take all the guesswork out of your seasonal planting.
WHERE SHOULD YOU GROW SUGAR SNAP PEAS?
Full sun helps peas form flowers and then pods, so plant your sugar snap peas somewhere they’ll receive 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day.
While you can grow them in a container (see our recommendations for good varieties for containers below), we recommend growing peas and beans in raised beds filled with well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Your plants will be more productive because their roots will have room to dig down deep, and they’ll enjoy the good drainage. Plus, peas (like other members of the Legume family) fix nitrogen in the soil, which benefits every single edible plant growing in the same space.
DO SUGAR SNAP PEAS NEED A TRELLIS TO CLIMB UP?
Short answer: yes.
Unless you’re growing a Tom Thumb variety of sugar snap peas, your plants will need a trellis to climb up. Depending on the cultivar you’re growing, your plant can reach heights of 4 to 7 feet tall, and trellises are a great way to keep vining plants like sugar snaps healthy and supported.
Specifically, benefits of vertical gardening include:
- Promoting good air circulation for both the pea plant and the other plants growing around it
- Maximizing your total growing space—you’ll have so much space now to plant around the trellis thanks to the vines being trained up instead of out
- Helping pea tendrils feel supported so that they don’t stall their growth
- Holding pea vines in place to make harvesting pods a snap!
Make sure your trellis or support structure is in place at planting time so that you don’t disturb the shallow roots of growing plants later.
If you don’t have trellis space available, consider growing bush types (which have slightly different needs and growth habits), or Tom Thumb peas, which only grow 8 to 9 inches tall and are a good variety for tucking into small spaces in your garden. Sugar Daddy peas, which reach about 2 feet tall, grow more like bush varieties but can sometimes still use a little support from wooden stakes and twine. Another one of the most common types of bush peas that produces similar sugar peas is called Sugar Ann.
For best results when growing these shorter types, repurpose those old tomato cages you might have lying around. Just flip the cage upside down and grow your peas around the inside. The bars will help hold the vines in place when the plant is producing pods.
We love the look of peas vining up a trellis and recommend giving a climbing variety a try if you have the space. You could also use cattle panel or chicken wire stretched between wooden frames as a pea trellis. Or if you don’t mind remaking your support structure each year, you could use bamboo poles to create a teepee-style sort of trellis.
Shop Trellises from the Lettuce Grow Something Shop
WHERE DO YOU BUY SUGAR SNAP PEA SEEDS?
Some of my favorite seed companies are Botanical Interests, Baker Creek, and Renee’s Garden. You won’t be disappointed with the “Sugar Snap” snap pea seeds from Botanical Interests. I also like how Renee’s garden focuses on container varieties because I know not all of you have large raised garden beds set up yet.
Here are some fun and different varieties you can grow:
- Snack Hero Hanging Basket Snap Peas – These are ideal for hanging baskets, window boxes, and small pots.
- Sugar Daddy Peas – Again, this a good variety to grow if you want to pick a lot of peas off a plant that grows more like a bush than a vine.
- Super Sugar Snaps – These vines grow up to 5ft tall and have larger pods than other snap peas.
- Magnolia Blossom Snap Peas – These snap peas not only grow up to 8 feet tall, they also produce gorgeous purple and white flowers.
- Little Crunch Snap Peas – This variety is a great way to still be able to grow sugar snaps in a container garden. The vines grow up to 30 inches tall and need a short support structure.
SUGAR SNAP PEAS PLANTING GUIDE
Before sowing pea seeds, amend your soil with a fresh layer of compost. Again, make sure to install your support structure, whether that’s an arch trellis or a DIY wooden teepee, before you plant.
To sow peas, dig a little trench about 0.5 to 1 inch deep and space your sugar snap pea seeds about 2 inches apart when sowing. (Give Tom Thumbs about 4 inches of space so they can bush out a bit).
Water the planting area gently but thoroughly to ensure germination, and monitor the soil moisture regularly until peas sprout.
Once you see pea seedlings emerge, help them find and attach themselves to the side of the trellis. If there’s a large gap between trellis rungs, consider stringing twine across so that pea tendrils find something to cling to sooner. You won’t have to help them anymore once the vines get established.
If you’re expecting a light frost, consider using frost cloth or a row cover to protect young pea plants or flowering plants.
Pea Water Requirements
Peas like wet soil, so keep the soil evenly moist throughout their growing time. Overhead watering is not recommended. Instead, aim your water at the base of the plants to avoid mildew.
Pea Fertilizer Requirements
Sugar snap peas usually don’t require additional fertilization beyond the compost boost given to them at the beginning.
Once you notice sugar snap peas flowers appearing, you have the option of giving your plants a liquid seaweed feed like MicroLife Super Seaweed Spray or MicroLife Maximum Blooms Concentrate to support their growth and fruiting.
Avoid adding a fertilizer high in nitrogen (the first number in the N-P-K ratio), as too much nitrogen will cause lots of leafy growth instead of lots of flowers and pods.
WHEN ARE SUGAR SNAP PEAS READY TO HARVEST?
Sugar snap peas are typically ready to harvest in 60 to 80 days. Check the back of the seed packet for the days to harvest so you’ll know when pea harvest time will arrive!
You can also harvest the pea shoots (young stems and leaves) whenever you want. They’re great to toss into stir fries!
Harvest pods when they’re green and tender and the peas inside are just beginning to swell. Pods will be between 1.5 to 3 inches long when they’re mature and contain anywhere from 3 to 8 peas inside.
CAN SUGAR SNAP PEAS BE EATEN RAW?
The entire plant is edible, and sugar snaps are particularly delicious when they’re young and tender. More mature pea pods may need to be “stringed” first. Look for a little string at the end of each pea pod, and snap the corner around the stem off so that you can peel the string from the pea.
You can eat snap peas raw with dips or tossed in salads. You can also sauté, stir fry, or steam them—just be careful not to overcook them or you’ll be eating sugar soggy peas, instead of your well-deserved serving of sugar snap peas.
And that’s how you grow, harvest, and prepare fresh peas that will taste a thousand times better than anything you can buy from the grocery store!