I love garden fresh sugar snap peas. They’re one of my favorite things to munch on while tending to the garden. They’re delicious pods are perfect for stir fries and the peas are perfect in soups and stews.
They’re also the perfect vegetable for this crazy, completely unpredictable weather we’ve been having! They’re cold and frost hardy, but it’s best to wait until the soil temperature reaches at least 40°F before planting, but no warmer than 80ºF.
You’re also going to want to make sure that the soil isn’t clumpy and sticky, because they don’t care for that. So, waiting until after all of the crazy rain (snow, what season are we in again?) is over. But, in our zone mid-April to early May is a great time to get them in the ground (normally).
Complete Guide to Growing Sugar Snap Peas
I’m a little bit different in that we actually start our sugar snap peas indoors. A lot of people say that you can’t start from seed inside because the plants don’t transplant well. But we’ve had excellent luck with doing it this way and they transplant very well for us. I think the trick is to make sure your house isn’t a million degrees and that you harden them off over the course of 7-10 days to acclimate to the outside temps.
Start Your Seeds
Since we start our seeds indoors, the first step will be to plant them in some seed starting mix. You’ll want to start them about 6 weeks before the last frost date for your area.
It’s best to start them in larger peat pots (or some other larger container) as they will outgrow small pots in a very short period of time and become root bound and potentially wither up and die. We use 4″ pots and they usually do pretty well in those. This year I wish I had started them in 6″ pots because I haven’t been able to get them outside. But… they’ll be out soon enough.
Make sure your potting mix is nice and moist (not drenched) and go ahead and sow a couple of seeds about 1/2″ to 1″ down. Cover the seed lightly with the starter mix. Go ahead and cover your pots with some sort of clear plastic to make a miniature greenhouse. This can be something made specifically for this purpose or it can be plastic wrap. Doesn’t matter. You do not need light at this point.
It won’t take long before you start seeing the starts of a beautiful plant. This, to me, is one of the most exciting parts of gardening and growing your own food. I love watching the seeds come to life knowing that I helped it happen. Nature and growing food is so awesome, y’all.
Give Them Light
Now, once you see some seeds sprouting up, go ahead and flick on your grow light. We use these with amazing results. We bought them at Lowe’s, but they’re available on Amazon for about the same price. They come with their own stands and we are able to use a flat table to grow all of our seedlings on. As the plants grow, we stack the lights on boards to make them higher.
You’ll want to leave the plastic on until you see about half of your seedlings sprouted. Once about half have sprouted, go ahead and remove the greenhouse cover. The rest should go ahead and sprout when they’re ready.
Once all of the seedlings have sprouted, you should thin them out to just one seedling per pot. I discard the rejected seedlings in the compost heap.
Maintain Your Starts
For a bit all you’re going to do is keep the soil moist (not wet) and keep the lights on them and watch them grow. It’s fun! Talk to them, enjoy them, watch them get taller…. ya know… fun, crazy gardener stuff. You do not need to add anything special (no fertilizer). Just water them and watch.
Harden Off The Seedlings
When you’re ready to transplant your seedlings, you’ll want to harden them off. If you’re not sure what that is, totally okay. It just means you’re going to get them less used to being in a controlled climate under grow lamps and more used to being outside in unpredictable, changing conditions with direct sunlight.
For most of my plants, I harden off over the course of 7 to 10 days. Do not do less than 7. It’s a pretty simple process, but having your seedlings stored in a tray makes this whole ordeal so much easier. All of our seedlings are in trays anyway, but if yours aren’t, you’ll want to move them into trays so you can easily move them outside and back inside.
The first day of hardening off your seedlings, you’ll move them outside, in a fairly protected and safe location (we use the side of the yard just beside our deck because it’s free of wind and mildly shaded). You’ll just leave them out for one hour and bring them back in to their climate controlled haven. Day two, you’ll place them out for two hours. And so on until you’ve done it for at least a week. I usually do 10 days. While it isn’t necessary, I feel better.
You’ll want to make sure the area you’re transplanting your seedlings into is weed free from the get go. Then, go ahead and mix in about 2 inches of compost into the soil where you will be planting your seedlings. You do not need to add any fertilizer. Peas don’t really require much fuss or fertilizer and you added a couple inches of compost, so they should be good. If you do choose to add a fertilizer, we generally use liquid kelp and you’ll only want to use it once during their entire life cycle. Over fertilized sugar snap peas will grow beautiful plants, but won’t yield much.
Transplant The Seedlings Into The Garden
The day has come! You’ve grown your little seeds into beautiful plants. You’ve taken the trouble to harden them off so they’re more acclimated to the big bad world. You’re prepared their spot in the garden. Now, you can finally put them in your garden!!
If you have a climbing variety (most are, but not all, they do have bush varieties available), you’ll want to install some sort of trellis or other support system. My husband build us a simple trellis out of some scrap wood. I’ve heard people who use old cattle panels, or anything else you have lying around.
Dig a hole a tad deeper than your root ball (or peat pot if you started in those). Place the plant in the soil and then fill it in, gently pressing down on the soil to ensure the seedling is nice and cozy. You’ll want to keep the plants spaced about 3 inches apart.
Now it’s time to add a layer of mulch. Wasted hay or straw is a great mulch for sugar snap peas or any other plant for that matter. Mulching helps cut down on weeds as well as maintaining the soil temperature.
Water the plants at the base. Do not get the leaves wet at this point.
Note: You can start and transplant your seedlings about every two weeks for a continuous harvest.
Knowing when to harvest peas is one of the best parts of growing them. You’ll want to harvest when the pods are swollen. You don’t want to wait too long because they’ll be pretty much inedible. The easiest way to know if they’re ready is to pick a couple and try them out. If they’re not quite right, wait a day and try a few more.
Growing sugar snap peas is super easy. They’re a plant that doesn’t require much more than a little water and time to grow. You’ll want to keep their area weeded (which you want to do in any garden area) but other than that you just water and wait. In no time you’ll be enjoying delicious sugar snap peas straight from the garden, in delicious stir fries, or frozen or canned to put into dishes later in the year. Have fun!