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Go Green With Spring Peas

Dig into spring with one of the season’s earliest crops — sweet, crunchy, good-for-you peas.

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Photo: Johnny’s Selected Seeds at

Planting Time for Peas

Spring peas are one of nature’s delicacies — a true tonic after winter. St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional pea planting day in warmer regions, but you really want to wait until soil temperatures are in the 45-degree range. A clue for the right pea planting time in your region is dandelions, daffodils and forsythia. When these spring favorites start to flower, it’s time to plant peas. Plant too early, and pea seeds will likely rot in cold soil before they germinate. Plant too late, and vines will only have a short bearing window. For garden planting, soil should be moist but crumbly (think chocolate cake). If it’s too wet, seeds may rot before sprouting.

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Photo: Johnny’s Selected Seeds at

Types of Spring Peas

Choose from three types of peas to plant (left to right): snow peas, garden peas and snap peas. Sometimes called Chinese pea pods, snow peas (left) are the one used in stir-fries and can be eaten raw or cooked. Garden peas (middle) are also known as sweet peas, English peas or shelling peas. These peas have to be removed from the pod before cooking. When you buy a bag of frozen peas, this is what you’re getting. Snap peas (right, aka sugar snap peas) are a cross between snow peas and garden peas. With snap peas, you eat the whole plump pod with the peas inside — it’s a crunchy, sweet bite.

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Photo: Renee’s Garden Seeds at

Peas for Pots

You can still grow a tasty crop of spring peas even if you don’t have a big yard. Look for container pea varieties, like this yummy sugar snap type, Little Crunch. With container peas, you may or may not need a trellis; it depends on how tall plants become. Little Crunch grows 24 to 30 inches tall, which makes it a perfect fit for a typical tomato cage. When growing peas in pots, don’t forget to water. Consistent soil moisture — especially once flowers start appearing — helps ensure a sweet harvest. If you battle rabbits in your yard, growing pots of peas can make it easier to beat the bunnies without having to fence a pea patch. Just know that rabbits (and deer) love peas, so you may need to protect pots on an open patio.

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Photo: Gardener’s Supply Company/

Peas Like to Climb

Pea plants climb using tendrils that wrap around supports and hoist stems upward. While you don’t have to give peas a trellis, it is easier to find and pick pods when plants are supported and upright. As with most edible crops, for the best bite, you want to harvest peas when they’re young. Old shelling peas become mealy and starchy (less sweet) if they enlarge too much on the plant. For mature snow peas and sugar snap peas, pods become woody and tough to chew if they’re left on the vine too long. For sugar snap peas, if pods are tough, you can often shell the peas and just eat those. With all peas, eat as soon as possible after harvest. Leave caps on pods to extend freshness.

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