Oh, dear sugar snap peas! My dear, dear sugar snaps. In all the time I've been growing food in our suburban farm days (approximately 10 years now!), I have to say that snap peas have been one of the most successful plants I've grown.
I started growing and harvesting peas when we purchased a home with a huge backyard. That was about 10 years ago. We ordered some seeds from one of our favorite heirloom seed companies, Baker Creek. I bought sugar snap seeds one time, and I've never had to buy them again.
Honestly, I never have planted many sugar snaps. I usually put about 12-20 snap pea seeds in the ground, and that is more than enough. My daughter loves to eat them pod and all early harvest, snow pea style. Up until this year, I have only harvested peas early as snow peas, because she is the main consumer. I've typically let the rest grow and dry on the plant, so I can harvest them as next years sugar snap seeds. And I ALWAYS have a plethora of pea seeds!
This year, I got wise. Maybe I should spend more time on the things I know work! (Smart, huh? It only took me 10 years. 🤦♀️🤷♀️)
So, I decided to increase my harvesting and use of the actual peas and reduce the number of leftover seeds. I picked more early pods. I started using them more in my salads and stir fry, because I really like peas, myself. What we didn't eat, I froze.
Until then, here are some of my novice gardener tips for growing and harvesting peas:
When planning your sugar snap garden (because, yeah...it kind of starts BEFORE you actually put those seeds in the ground):
1. I can't really say much about SOIL. My snap peas have grown pretty much where nothing else (except blackberries...and that's a post for another day) will. We have used raised beds in the past, and those are always very successful. However, we are really interested in improving the actual ground around us. We have been using the (local) woodchip method, for the last five years, and we still haven't gotten to a point where the soil is sufficiently productive. (This year, I did a soil test and added some much needed nitrogen...watch the film and you will understand...so, I am hopeful.) However, sugar snap peas are apparently like honey badgers, because they just don't care. They have faithfully produced every year.
3. It's fine to put those pea seeds in the ground without much thought, but pretty soon, you are going to wish you had thought about some kind of a TRELLIS. I still don't have mine perfected. I'm trying to not spend a lot of money, and since the peas are the least of my high maintenance needs around here...well, as you know...the squeaky wheel gets the oil. (And my chickens are PRETTY darn squeaky!!) We have been getting by with a flimsy tomato trellis turned on its side and supported an extra bit with string. (It's best if you have something about 4-6 inches off the ground that the little shoots can grab. Train them early and save yourself some headaches later on. ...Please...Please learn from me...I am the queen of doing things the long, drawn out, back-breakingly difficult way. Let me bear the strife for you. Plan a trellis...at least 3-4 feet high with something to grab every 6 inches. You are welcome.)
5. HARVEST. This will sneak up on you, and it is the trickiest part, because the plant is the same color as the produce. Those little guys are camouflaged! And the snow peas grow fast, so pick them while they are young.
Snow peas - These should be green and flat. Take a good look. If they are more than an inch long, or so, they are good to grab.
Sugar snap - If you want to put them in a stir fry, pick slightly bigger, when the inner peas are just beginning to bulge.
Seeds - Worry not, if you have reached the bitter phase!! All is not lost...these peas are still good. Just let them dry out. When they are brown, you can pick them for next year's seeds. (If you are going to have rain, you could save yourself from potential loss to mold by picking them and drying them out inside.)
Easy PEAsy, right? (Ohhhhh!! Do you think this is where they got that phrase?!! 🤯
Peas really are a great place for a beginning gardener to...well...begin, as far as I can see. I mean...if they worked for me...🤷♀️
Photos are in progressive harvesting order.
#1 and #2) Snow peas ready to eat...pod and all.
#3) Sugar Snap - Ready for your stir fry.
#4) Compost that pod and eat those peas!
#5) Pea seeds - pick and save for next years planting.
#6) My pea seeds, dried and ready for storing.