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How to Plant Sugar Snap Peas in Your Garden

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 2 min read

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Ron Finley Teaches Gardening

Sugar snap peas are one of the peak pleasures of spring and summer gardening. Unlike flatter snow peas or starchy exterior of shelling peas, the edible pods of sugar snap peas are sweet and crunchy, revealing full-sized, tender peas within.

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Ron Finley Teaches GardeningRon Finley Teaches Gardening

Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.

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When to Plant Sugar Snap Peas

Peas are one of the very first crops of spring; you can plant sugar snap peas as early as February in some locations, depending on whether the soil temperature has risen enough for the ground to have thawed and become workable. (Many gardeners align their pea planting schedule with St. Patrick’s Day.)

Sugar snap peas have a relatively short growing season which starts in early spring and wraps up by late summer, with an optional early fall window for some locations. While young pea plants can survive a final frost or light snow, an unexpected week of extreme cold or soggy soil from snowmelt might derail the patch, requiring a round of replanting.

How to Plant Sugar Snap Peas

For improved germination, soak pea seeds in warm water the night before planting. (If planting in colder soils, some gardeners prefer to toss dry seeds with an inoculant containing millions of nitrogen-fixing rhizobia, which are a type of bacteria.)

  1. Pick the site. Planting peas in a spot with full sun will produce pods with a concentrated sweetness, so plan the location of your rows accordingly. Peas are also particularly vulnerable to root rot in soggy soils, so make sure the planting site is well-draining. Raised beds are a good way to avoid soggy soil, if snowmelt or pooling rain is an issue.
  2. Prepare the site. Work organic matter like compost, wood ash, and bone meal into the soil prior to planting. Peas enrich the soil with nitrogen for surrounding plants, but they do require phosphorus and potassium to grow.
  3. Sow seeds. Plant pea seeds about one-inch deep, and two inches apart in rows. Space rows anywhere from one to two feet apart. Fill in with a fine coating of soil and gently tamp down. (Alternatively, you can sprinkle the seeds, cover with light topsoil, and sow by walking gently over the garden bed.) Water well to establish.
  4. Set up a trellis. Vining peas like sugar snaps—which can grow up to six feet—will need a support system as soon as the tendrils begin sprouting and poking their way through the soil. You can use a tomato cage, a makeshift chicken wire fence, or a bit of twine strung between posts as vertical supports for your sugar snap peas.
  5. Mulch. Applying a light layer of mulch (straw or compost works well) once tendrils have emerged above ground will help keep weeds at a minimum and regulate the soil temperature. Pull any weeds you spot by hand.
Ron Finley Teaches Gardening
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Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass Annual Membership and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.

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