Planting Garden and Snow Peas

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Plant seeds of garden peas, sugar snaps, and snow peas in February.

Plant seeds of garden peas, sugar snaps, and snow peas in February.

Garden peas, and their relatives, snow peas and sugar snaps, are simple and productive crops that almost anyone can grow. Peas grow best in sunny areas with well drained soil that is not too acidic, ideally with a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5. In coastal areas, peas can be planted outside as early as mid January. Even away from the coast peas should be planted by mid February at the latest so they have enough time to mature before hot weather sets in. Garden and snow peas that mature when temperatures are above 80° will be starchy and tough.

Soaking pea seeds in a jar of water for six to eight hours immediately before planting will help them germinate faster but is not absolutely necessary. Seeds may also be treated with Rhizobium inoculant, a natural bacterium that helps peas and other legumes convert nitrogen from the air into a form plants can use. If you are planting peas in an area where peas or beans have not been grown before, treating pea seeds with inoculant before planting may improve growth.

To apply inoculant simply pour some into a bag, add the presoaked seeds and shake until the peas are coated. Immediately plant treated seed in the garden. Sow seeds an inch deep and one to two inches apart. Water well after sowing and keep moist until seedlings begin to emerge, usually within seven to ten days. Be sure to provide a low trellis such as pea fencing or a latticework of twiggy branches for the vines to climb upon.

Fresh peas will be ready to harvest 65 to 80 days after planting. When the pea pods swell they are ready to be picked. Peas are of the best quality when they are fully expanded but immature, before they become hard and starchy. Peas should be picked immediately before cooking because their quality and sweetness deteriorates rapidly. High fertility will cause excessive vine growth and poor yields so be conservative with fertilizer applications.

Learn more about growing peas from this Extension fact sheet:

Take the Year Round Gardening Challenge!

I have a challenge for you: Grow at least one type of vegetable each season of 2014. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Vegetables can be grown outside in southeastern NC from late winter through late fall. You can officially join the Year Round Gardening Challenge by filling out a quick online survey that will ask you simple question about what you would like to grow, the size of your garden, and your gardening experience level. Everyone who takes the challenge will have the option to subscribe to the Food Gardener email news service to receive regular updates about planting times, recommended varieties, insect and disease problems, sustainable and organic pest management, and upcoming classes and events. Click here to learn more and to take the survey.

Learn More

Visit your local Cooperative Extension office to learn more about gardening and landscape care. Go to to find your county Extension cente.