Growing Green Peas

Grow snap peas in your garden for fresh, healthy snacks all spring.

Homegrown snap-style green peas will be crisp and flawless, worthy of serving raw with a dip.

There are many reasons for growing green peas. Mouthwatering and tender, homegrown peas are flawless, gracing your meal with vibrant color and delicious flavor. Traditional English peas have sweet, round, green peas inside a pod; you shell the peas and throw away the pod. Another type of pea is the snow pea, the crunchy, flat, sweet pod of Chinese cuisine that is eaten whole; the peas inside are not allowed to get big. However, one pea combines the sweet contents of English peas with the crispy outer pod, or shell, of snow peas. They are called snap-style green peas, and you can eat the whole thing, pod and all, cooked or raw.

To use them as snow peas, harvest really young (before pods fill out); to use them like English peas, let the peas inside get big and then shell them; to eat them as snap peas just crunch down on the whole thing at any stage of growth, and snap! The peas and the pod fill your mouth with a sweet crunch. Snap-style green peas, also called edible podded peas, are the only pea one needs to grow because they are all in one. They also pack a nutritious punch with plenty of iron and vitamin C in every bite. Snap-style Green Pea plants bear small plump pods of round peas on very compact vines.

Soil, Planting, and Care

A fun and easy project is growing snap peas on a trellis placed in a container.

You can grow snap-style green peas in a container. These will climb twine that is attached to a wire cage, which will hold a tomato later. You can also plant lettuce in the center of the pot and grow the lettuce with the peas around it.

Peas thrive in cool, damp weather, making them an ideal candidate for early spring planting. In mild climates, you can also plant for a fall harvest, but spring plantings generally yield more. Get peas in the ground as soon as possible in early spring, once the soil temperature reaches at least 45 degrees. Wait to plant until soil is dry enough that it doesn’t clump and stick to garden tools. Space plants 5 inches apart.

Young pea plants can take a light frost, so tuck plants into the garden before the last average frost date for your region. However, be prepared to protect flowering plants from a late frost; it will hurt flowers and sometimes causes tiny developing pods to be deformed.

Green peas don’t need a trellis, but pods will be easier to pick when vines are held upright. If you’re using a trellis, insert it prior to planting. Use netting, stakes, and string, a wood frame trellis covered with chicken wire, metal fencing, or a collection of twiggy branches stuck into the ground among the plants. Peas attach by tendrils, tiny stems that curl and encircle supports. Tendrils quickly wrap around slender supports to hoist vines skyward.

Apply a 2-inch-thick layer of organic mulch, such as straw, grass clippings, or compost, when plants are 6 inches tall. Mulch helps soil retain moisture and suppresses weeds. Keep your pea plot free from weeds, pulling offenders by hand or cultivating very shallowly.

Young tender snap peas in the garden

You can eat the whole snap-style green pea, pod and all, cooked or raw. To use them as snow peas, harvest really young, before pods fill out.

Peas don’t need much nitrogen fertilizer, only perhaps a little starter in a new garden or in very poor soil with little organic matter. As members of the legume family, peas actually fix their own nitrogen from the air, and can even improve your soil by adding nitrogen to it. This nitrogen fixing is done in conjunction with rhizobium bacteria, which are probably present in your soil. However, if you have any doubts and want to improve the productivity of peas in the future, you can purchase “inoculant,” which is a powder of rhizobium bacteria that you can add to the soil. Once established, the bacteria don’t have to be added again.

Withhold water slightly during the early growing phase to encourage deeper rooting (peas tend to be shallowly rooted). Watering is critical from the appearance of the first flower until harvest. Peas need consistent moisture to develop full, flavorful pods.

Troubleshooting

Aphids occasionally attack vines, but can be easily overcome with a douse of insecticidal soap. Peas are susceptible to fusarium wilt and root-rot disease, especially on poorly drained soils. Stunting of the plant, or lower leaves that yellow and wilt, are symptoms of these diseases. Improving soil drainage by adding compost can help prevent outbreaks of these diseases.

To prevent fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew, water peas early in the day so leaves can dry before dusk, or use a soaker hose or drip irrigation so that the foliage doesn’t get wet each time you water. Most disease problems can be beaten by planting disease-resistant varieties like Sugar Ann.

Harvest and Storage

Harvest snap peas by pinching the pod off the plant without pulling on the vines.

Be careful to pinch snap-style green peas gently from the vine without tugging because the vines are fragile and easy to break.

Harvest snap-style gree peas when pods start to fatten, but before peas get too large. If picked at the right time, the whole pod can be eaten. If pods are chewy and tough, they’ve been left on vines too long. In this case, shell the peas and compost the pods. Peas will produce as long as vines are healthy and temperatures stay cool. Mulching soil helps keep roots cool. Once the temperature reaches the 80s, pea season is over.

The more you pick peas, the more peas you’ll have to pick. After harvest, the sugar in peas turns to starch, decreasing sweetness. For best flavor, cook or freeze peas within a few hours of picking. To freeze snap-style green peas, simply toss pods into plastic freezer bags.

Let the pods fill out to harvest and use the peas like English varieties.

If you let the peas inside snap-style pods grow to full size, you can eat them like traditional English peas.

On snap-style pea vines, you can also harvest flowers and leafy shoots for eating. While snap-style green peas are sometimes called sugar snap peas or sweet peas, it’s important to note that they are different from the sweet pea vines grown for their ornamental flowers. Those sweet peas are not edible.

40 Comments

Linda

I live in Kansas and I planted “little marvel” and “Mammoth” in early March, hoping I would have peas this year. My plants are setting blooms but the temp has shot up to the 80’s during the day and still in the 60’s at night. What are the chances that I will have anything this year? Would it help if I tried to shade the plants more?

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hi Linda,
You still have a great chance! Here is your planting chart from your state extension system. Peas in your area are planted in early March and harvested around June – early July. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Rebecca

I love sugar snap peas! Is it too late to plant now, in early May?

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hi Rebecca,
It depends on what area you are gardening in. Sugar snap peas are a cool season veggie, and it is much too warm in many areas now to plant (but just right in other areas) :) Your local extension system may have planting dates for you or let me know what state you are in – I’ll get the information for you. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Sandra Mort

You say to plant when the soil is 45F but that they should go in as soon as possible, including before the last frost date. I live in 12578 (zone 6, I think). When can I put them in the ground? My lasagne garden is all ready and I’m itching to go! I’ll be sprouting them indoors and planting the sprouts, in case that matters. Thanks!

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hi Sandra,
This is a guide to growing peas from Cornell Extension. Planting dates range from late March to early April. Go ahead and scratch your itch! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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patricia

My sugar snap peas are plump and ready for the picking. Unfortunately, the plant leaves have now developed round patches of white fungus (or mildew?). Can I still eat the peas raw?

Reply
Mary Beth

Hi Patricia. If it’s on the leaves but the peas in the pod appear fine, they should be okay to eat. To be safe, wash them well and steam or boil for cooking. If you want to be doubly sure of anything you’re viewing, you can always submit a photo to our Ask An Expert online service. It sounds like your peas have downy mildew, which occurs with high humidity. You can avoid this by not watering late in the day or at night, though some varieties are more prone than others. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Ted Davis

Hello all.. I live in Thailand and we have these pesky snails that love vegetable seedlings of all kinds…Has anyone used Cayenne pepper sprinkled around the plants wether seedlings or fully grown as a prevention method…? I can’t use salt as we all know it will destroy the soil and the plants…Any advice would be welcomed…I have used small trays filled with beer, (snails love to drink) but I would rather consume that myself…LOL…Thanks so much…

Reply
Mary Beth

Hi Ted!
Anyone — comment with home remedies and tips! I’ve heard chickens would LOVE to guard your garden. If you don’t want them wandering in your garden, fence them on the perimeter. Pluck them off and throw over the fence to the hungry ladies. Hopefully that can keep them under control and they can prevent future ones by guarding the perimeter of your garden. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

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Farmer Gary

Chickens also will rototill your garden to a minor depth since all they do all day is preen and scratch and peck. Pre planing just throw some leftovers in the beds and watch them go and laugh like crazy. Their poop is beter then cow compost too. You can have an entire ecosystem with chickens. They eat grubs and spiders and ticks and eat almost anything even chicken.

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Judi grandadam

Those pesky snails hate used coffee grounds. Sprinkle the used coffee grounds all around your plants. This also is good for your soil. I use a mix of garlic, Cayenne pepper and Dawn dish soap mixed as a spray and applied to my garden plants to get rid of other bad bugs. It doesn’t hurt your plants but I don’t know if it will get rid of snails. I actually sprinkled quite a large amount of Cayenne directly on my peas, string beans, and tomatoes in an attempt to get rid of a nasty groundhog who was devouring everything in sight. Thought it would burn his mouth–didn’t work, he ate my entire crop last year right down to the roots. Anybody know how to get rid of the little beast please let me know.

Reply
Danielle Carroll

Hi Judi,
A groundhog after my own heart – likes it spicy! Mother Earth News has great tips on groundhog control that you may want to try. Good Luck! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

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Diane

I planted peas a little too late last fall and they did not have time to make before frost. However, the plants have continued to grow (no blooms) and are green and healthy looking. Should I go ahead and pull them out to replant in early March? We have had a mild winter with our coldest nights only in the high twenties….will they bloom in the spring if it continues to be mild?

Reply
Mary Beth

Hi Diane,
Do you know what variety you have planted? It all depends on the traits of the variety you have and the mild weather you’re experiencing. I think it’s worth a shot to see what they do, since they’ve gotten a headstart on spring. If you don’t expect any colder weather ahead through March, you may get an earlier rebloom. Why not leave it and also plant more in Spring in another spot? ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Reply
ewood

Hi
I’m a new gardener, i had a great crop of sweet peas which i originally grew just for the lovely smelling flowers and ended up eating some delicious peas! The vines are still producing some flowers but they have started to dry out at the bottom and we have had a few very hot days, what should i do now? do i pull the plants up at the roots and compost them or will they keep growing?
Thanks

Reply
Mary Beth

Hi EWood,
That sounds delicious! I can hear the excitement in your “voice.” Sweet peas, as you can see in this article, favor cool season and will not perform well in warmer weather. Since you submitted this post, has the weather cooled back down? This season has had unusual highs and lows and warmer falls, no matter your location. If your plant has died back, you should compost it by now. But know that you can also eat the pea shoots of edible sweet pea plants! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Regina

Can I plant these in pots? I live in Southern California and do not have a good spot in the garden. If they can go in pots, how deep do they need to be?

Reply
Mary Beth

Hi Regina,
Sure, you can plant peas in containers. As for depth, leave the soil line the same as it is in our Bonnie transplant; ie don’t bury the plant any deeper than the soil level currently is. Take care to disturb the root system as little as possible. Good luck! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Darren

What is the best way to remove the pods? Should I cut them? Pull them? Break them? Just wondering what is best for the plant. Thank you

Reply
Mary Beth

Hi Darren,
When your peas are ready, they are fairly easy to pull from the plant. You might try harvesting two-handed, one hand on the pod and the other to snap the tiny stem from the vine. And good luck trying not to eat them all straight out of the garden before they make it to the kitchen! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Aan

Hi,

I am trying to plant peas in the pot plant from Burpee Gardens. Unfortunately, my plant is wilting. It started well, but after a certain height it just doesn’t grow well. Please help. Thanks.

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Aan,

Bonnie Plants sells our snap pea transplants in our signature biodegradable pots. Is your plant a Bonnie plant in a bio pot? If so, you should transplant the pot into the ground, using this info and video for reference. If it’s another kind of pot or brand, just be sure to follow the info above for growing sweet peas. Depending on the variety you’re growing, it probably needs a trellis to hold the plant up. I hope this helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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LaMina

Every year the kids and i pull the whole pea plant off the fence and pick them off the plant and compost the plant, last night it got dark and i left the plants in a cool dark place upon going to finish today there were millions of those little green aphids on the pile, I have washed them all one by one, can i still use my peas is the question?

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi LaMina,

As long as you wash the peas well, I see no reason you and your kids shouldn’t get to eat them! Enjoy!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Vicki

My snap peas have grown healthy, and are covered in leaves and tiny strands of bead-type seeds? Hard to describe. First I thought they were going to be the peas pods, but then I started seeing the white flowers forming. There aren’t many white flowers, but these tiny bead strands are still all over the plants. What are they? Our weather is hot, but my plants are doing well, but not many flowers. I hope they produce peas in the hot weather. I think I’ve had them in the ground for about two months. I live in zone 6. Any response would be appreciated.

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Vicki,

What variety of pea are you growing? That might help us identify. I’m not sure what these bead-type seeds are you’re describing. You’re sure they’re not pea pods? If you want, you can send your question with a photo to our Ask an Expert service, and they might be able to give a better answer.

Kelly

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Vicki

My snap peas look real healthy, and covered in tiny white flowers for some time now. We have been going through a heat wave of 90’s for a few weeks, with an ocassional temp break. I water them every two days with rain water. I noticed there are now larger white flowers, which I am presuming are the beginnings of the pea pods. What are the real tiny flowers? Is this normal for the peas to take so long producing pods? I’m in zone 6-7. Thanks

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Vicki,

Peas love cool weather and typically only produce up to 80 degrees F, so it’s surprising and exciting that your plants seem to be doing so well even in the hotter weather. I am not sure why you’re seeing flowers of different sizes, but all flowers on this plant can produce pea pods. The lack of production is likely due to the hot weather. If you can keep the plants healthy, they may produce more when the weather cools down. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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Debbie

I live in Michigan and the harvest date for my snap peas was this weekend. Will they continue or are they done? The flowers at the top have turned brown and the bottom of the plant has also turned yellowish brown? Keep in mind we’ve had a two week streak in the 90’s and up.

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Debbie,

Snap peas like cool weather and will peter out as the temps rise to 80 or above. It sounds like your plants are done for the season. I hope you got some nice peas from them! You can pull up your plants and add them to your compost pile. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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olivia

Hi, im growing snowpeas and it appears that the roots and lower stem almost apear burnt is that a characteristic of root-rot?

Reply
Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Olivia,

Peas prefer cool temperatures and don’t like anything above 80 degrees F. When the plants give out, they start to dry from the bottom and this look, which could be described as burnt, eventually moves up the plant. Have you had many days over 80 degrees? If so, that’s most likely what’s going on, and you can pull up the peas, compost them, and move on to summer crops! Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Buddy Hopkins

My Snap Pea Plants are getting too large for my stakes and strings! We had a storm and they got blown down a bit and it looks like some of the plants have bent – almost breaking. Should I be cutting them too keep them from growing too high? Should I do anything with them now or just let them be – I’m afraid of trying to push them upright and tie them now in case they break.

Reply
Kelly Smith

Hi Buddy,

Sorry about the storms! Can you add some taller stakes or a trellis that the peas will cling on to? I’d think you could gently coax the plants back upright and onto a support system without breaking them. But vines to have a tendency to work themselves into knots that are hard to break, especially in storms like you describe. If you really think you’ll break them all if you try to get them upright, then leaving them be is the best bet.

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Kim

Hi Kelly,
I too wonder why my peas are dried up and yellow at the bottom but top part looks green and healthy.
I have the same problem as Patty but now is only begining of June. What kind of fertilizer should I use for my peas? Can I use a nitrogen rich one (meant for strawberries) or the fertilizer for tomatoes/eggplants and peppers?
Thanks
Kim

Reply
Kelly Smith

Hi Kim and Patty,

Here is a more complete answering about yellowing on pea plants, from our Ask an Expert service:

Yellowing is commonly from a nitrogen deficiency which can be the result of overwatering. Most vegetables only need an inch to an inch and a half of water a week from either rainfall or irrigation. If in a container, water them when the top inch and a half or so of potting soil becomes dry to the touch. Water in the morning at the base of the plant, keeping the foliage dry, to prevent some disease problems. Using a liquid fertilizer specifically for vegetables would help too.

We recommend our Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. I hope this helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Patty Eller

My peas are turning yellow, brownish, at the bottom and it is going up the stems. Every year I have this problem. What do I do to correct this. Thanks

Reply
Kelly Smith

Hi Patty,

Peas are a cool-season spring crop that begins to die back when the weather heats up. Could it be that your plants are just nearing the end of their season now that summer is heating up?

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Reply
Kelly Smith

Hi Patty,

Peas are a cool-season spring crop that begins to die back when the temperature rises. Could it be that your plants are just nearing the end of their season now that summer is heating up?

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Reply

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