Ask the ISU Extension Garden Experts About: Growing Peas

March 10, 2011, 12:40 pm | Richard Jauron, Willy Klein

What are snow peas? 

Snow peas are an edible podded pea. Snow peas are harvested when the pods are long and thin, just as the seeds begin to develop. Young pods are tender, stringless and may be stir-fried in Chinese dishes, steamed or cooked like snap beans. If the seeds are allowed to develop fully, they may be shelled and used like garden peas.  Snow peas are sometimes referred to as sugar peas.  

What are snap peas? 

Snap peas are an edible podded pea. Snap peas are best picked when the seeds are nearly full size and the pod walls are thick, fleshy and crunchy. Snap peas may be eaten raw in salads, snapped and cooked like snap beans, or shelled for garden peas.  They also freeze very well. 

What are some good pea varieties for the home garden?  Pea Vine

Suggested garden pea cultivars for home gardens in Iowa include ‘Little Marvel’ (early season, short vines), ‘Spring’ (early season, short vines), ‘Knight’ (early season, short vines), ‘Lincoln’ (mid to late season, very sweet), ‘Green Arrow’ (mid to late season, 24 to 28 inch vines) and ‘Wando’ (mid to late season, heat tolerant). ‘Oregon Giant’ (mid to late season, large pods), ‘Snowflake’ (late season, flat pods) and ‘Super Sugar Pod’ (late season, long vines) are excellent snow pea varieties, while ‘Sugar Ann’ (early season, short vines), ‘Sugar Bon’ (early season, short vines), ‘Sugar Sprint’ (early to mid-season, short vines), ‘Cascadia’ (mid-season, short vines) and ‘Super Snappy’ (mid-season, large pods) are good snap peas. 

When should peas be planted in the garden? 

Peas are a cool season crop. They should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in spring (late March or early April in central Iowa). Sow seeds 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart. Peas can be planted in single or double rows. Space double rows 6 inches apart. Double rows allow short varieties to cling and hold up one another. Place wire netting or a trellis between double rows of tall vining varieties to provide support.  Single and double rows of short varieties should be spaced 2 feet apart. Space single and double rows of tall growing varieties 2 to 3 feet apart. 

Do I need to treat my peas with an inoculant before planting? 

Peas are members of the legume (Fabaceae) family. Through a symbiotic relationship with a soil bacterium (Rhizobium), peas are able to “fix” atmospheric nitrogen in nodules on their roots. 

Peas will grow and produce a crop without inoculation. However, inoculation with a nitrogen-fixing bacterium may be beneficial if peas have not been grown in the garden in the past. Pea inoculants can be purchased at garden centers and from mail-order catalogs. Inoculate pea seeds immediately before sowing. Place a small amount of the pea inoculant into the seed packet and shake. 


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