Oh, snap! It’s time to plant peas.

Pick your pleasure –  snap peas, sweet peas, or snow peas – and get busy.

Peas like cold temperatures. If your soil is workable, grab your seeds and head outside. Cold temps and sun make the peas taste sweeter. The general rule is to plant by St Patrick’s Day, or 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Because peas have tender, shallow roots, they grow best when the seed is planted directly into the garden — no need to start them early indoors. 

The three varieties most gardeners plant are sweet peas, snow peas, and snap peas. All thrive with the same growing conditions and care. 

Sweet peas, sometimes called garden peas, English peas, or shelling peas, are common. They have inedible pods filled with seeds or peas. Remove the peas before using them. Snow peas have flat, stringless edible pods and contain small peas. These are the peas often used for stir fry dishes. Snap peas or sugar peas have thick edible pods filled with large peas. 

After deciding which seeds to plant, consider soaking the seed overnight in water to help with quick germination. Ready to plant? Place the seeds about an inch deep and two inches apart. I like to go ahead and create a trellis when planting or as soon as they pop up through the ground. Doing this early will prevent disturbing the roots. 

Peas can be planted in a garden bed, raised bed, or a container, but make sure it is at least 12 inches wide. It doesn’t need to be too deep, but the peas will need room to grow.

The peas vines will want to climb. A trellis, stick ladder (small branches and string), or even chicken wire will work as a support for these climbers who can reach as much as 4 feet tall. These vines are not heavy. They just want to climb, so this is your chance to have fun with a creative trellis.

Peas don’t need much fertilizer. They add nitrogen to the soil, so crop rotation or planting them in a different location each year is important. They will benefit from hilling the rows when the vines appear. Hilling is pulling soil around the roots which helps keep the roots cool. Grass clippings or crushed leaves will also do the trick.

Keep the vines watered and weed by hand – remember those tender roots. Peas are mature and ready to harvest in about two months. Watch for the flowers to bloom. Pods will appear soon afterward.

When harvesting, simply twist the pods off the vine. The fresh pods will keep for 5-8 days, but I doubt they last that long. It is hard to resist popping springtime peas into your mouth as soon as possible. 

You will know they are ready when the snow pea pods begin to show small seeds inside. The snap peas will get full, and the pods will turn glossy. Don’t leave shell peas on the vine too long; the pods will become waxy and tuff.

Peas are a cool-season edible annual crop. They will not survive the summer heat or return the following year. This is the reason to enjoy these pods of goodness throughout the spring. Fresh is best, but they do freeze well if you want to hang on to the goodness a bit longer.