One of my favorite childhood memories was wandering into my mom’s seemingly endless garden in spring and eating both snow peas and sugar snaps right off the verdant vine. For some reason, the sweetness of the peas and the crunch of the bright-green pods are forever ingrained as sensory memories of the old-home place in the mountains. I want to recreate part of that experience for my children even though we live in the middle of the city, so I’m growing peas in my small front-yard garden with the hopes they’ll pick and enjoy them as much as I did at their age.
Just last week, I planted my pea seeds. I’m growing exclusively edible pod peas: snow peas (or sugar peas), which feature undeveloped seeds in a flattish pod, and snap peas, with thicker pods and fully formed seeds. Both are great raw right off the vine or can be used in any number of culinary applications from salads to stir-fries. I planted early varieties of both sugar snaps and snow peas in the garden, and I’m looked forward to the first harvest in 55 or 65 days, when the plants mature. Be sure to follow the directions for your individual cultivar regarding spacing and seed depth.
As a cool weather crop, peas don’t do well with heat and humidity, which means it needs to be planted pretty early in most regions. When it’s time to plant in your area, be sure the peas are situated in a plot that receives full sun to guarantee the sweetest pea pods. (Consult the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map as a guide on planting dates.) The garden soil should be well-drained and have a pH of about 6.5 for maximum production.
Both the vining and dwarf bush edible-pod pea cultivars will benefit from a support to climb, such as a trellis or mesh. Whatever support apparatus you go with, place it in the ground before the peas are planted or immediately after so as not damage the plants’ shallow roots. To make things easier, I planted my crop of edible pod peas around the outer edge of the garden, right along the mesh fence that keeps out squirrels and neighborhood dogs. The mesh fence will provide a handy support and hopefully will allow the plants to spread onto the outside of the fence where they are easily accessed by little hands!
Pea-plant care is pretty simple. Keep them at an even moisture level, and pick pods every two or three days to keep the peas sweet and less starchy. Regular harvesting also ensures continual production until the warm temperatures set in, which slow and eventually stop pea plants from producing.