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How to Grow Garden Sweet Peas

Garden Sweet Peas Plants

Sweet Peas are one of the favorite vegetables of kids and adults. You'll love them straight from the garden. You can pick sweet peas off the vine, shell them and eat them raw, for a delicious, and healthy snack. Sweet Peas are one of the hardier vegetables. Sometimes called snow peas or snap peas, they get their name as the young seedlings can survive frosts, freezes and even snow!

Also called "snow peas", they are one of the hardiest of plants in the vegetable world. They survive frost and a light freeze. A surprise late snowfall, will leave them unharmed. Seeds will germinate in lower soil temperatures. At 60 ° F, they will sprout in about 9 days.

There are numerous varieties of garden sweet peas. Some pea plants require fencing or support. Others are described as "Self-supporting". Read the directions on the package to identify what you are buying. We recommend you fence them, regardless of type. This helps to keep the pea pods off the ground, and results in cleaner peas. Inexpensive chicken wire fence and a few stakes are all you need.

Vegetable "Pop Rocks!? Run Frozen peas under hot tap water to warm them up. (Don't cook them). Kids love they way the peas "pop" in their mouth. 

Varieties of Sweet Peas:

  • Regular Sweet Peas- These nutritious vegetables are grown for their seeds. There are many varieties to choose from. Some are better for canning and freezing, while others are best fresh.

  • Edible Podded- Eat the pea pod and all. The pod is sweet and tender (if picked while still young). It also contains pea seeds. Best of all, they are far easier to prepare. Simply pick them, wash them off, and cook them. No shelling is needed.

  • Chinese Peas- Similar to edible podded peas, you eat the crispy pod of these Chinese varieties. The difference, is the pea inside is very tiny.

garden sweet peas

Days to Maturity:

Ranges from 55 to 70 days, depending on variety. Early varieties have less seeds in the pod, usually three to four. Later varieties may have 8 to 10 seeds per pod.

Hills and Mounding:

Early spring crops benefit by creating a long hill or mound. This slight elevation helps to warm the soil. Most importantly, it keeps excess water and spring rain from rotting the seeds before they sprout.

Don't worry if there is cold weather or even snow. Young pea plants are hardy, and will survive temperatures into the 20's.

How to Grow Sweet Peas:

Growing sweet peas is easy. Select an area of your vegetable garden that gets full sun. The plants prefer rich garden soil. Mound soil for spring planting, if your area receives heavy and frequent spring rains.

Sow sweet pea seeds as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. Space seeds 1" to 1 1/2" apart. The large seeds are easy to space. We suggest planting double rows, with the double rows about 2 feet apart. Place a fence between the double rows, for them to climb upon.

Apply a side dressing of fertilizer, to give these plants a fast start as soon as they germinate. Apply a general purpose fertilizer every three to four weeks.

Planted in the early spring, the soil is usually contains plenty of moisture until warmer, drier weather sets in. Water deeply, as needed.

Sweet Peas do not grow well in hot weather. However, fall crops will do well. Make sure to plant them with enough growing time to mature prior to heavy freezes.

Harvest as sweet peas, and edible podded varieties, while young and tender. Sweet Peas lose their sweetness and become hard, if left on  the vine too long.

Also See:

Plant Problems

Soil Temperatures

Ideal Soil pH  

Insects and Pests:

Pea seedlings are a popular food for birds. As the seedlings grow, birds will sometimes eat the tender tips. We recommend placing chicken wire or bird netting over the young seedlings.

Boring insects will sometimes enter the pea pod. Occasional aphid infestations can also occur, but this is uncommon.

In wet weather, slugs will climb the vines and suck on the pea pods. Use snail and slug pellets. For organic control, make a beer trap. Put a little beer in a small can or bowl. Tuna cans work great. Bury the trap, up to the lip, in the garden soil. Snails and slugs will be attracted to it, fall in and drown.

More on Slugs and snails

More on Plant Problem Diseases and Problems


With summer heat and humidity, comes diseases that can befall these plants just before, or during the ripening of the crop. Fungicides can be used in areas of high heat and humidity. However, we recommend you find out whether it is a problem in your area first.


Peas are very "cold weather" hardy. Plant them early in the season. They will withstand frost, light freezes, and even snow cover. Planted early enough you can complete one crop by early July, and still have time for a fall crop in most areas.

Peas do not like heat. In hot weather the plant stunts or slows it's growth. Any peas that develop and mature are not as sweet.

Garden Sweet Peas Recipes:

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