Shell peas are one of the garden’s most delicious vegetable offerings. Their season passes all too quickly.



Shell peas are one of the garden’s most delicious vegetable offerings.  Their season passes all too quickly.  If you have enough peas, steam or boil them.  Smaller quantities are great for adding to stir-fries or for topping salads.  And while you are out in the garden, you really must open a pod or two and enjoy their raw, crisp sweetness!

Sugar snap peas are a specialized variety and must be treated as such.  They were made to be picked young and used in salads, stir-fries, and the like.  Don’t bother to shell them like regular peas.  The results are less than satisfactory.

Preferred Conditions

  • Cool weather.
  • Full sun in spring, shade in summer.
  • Well-drained soil.
  • Soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0.


  • Corn. If you happen to have peas and corn in the garden at the same time, you can use cornstalks as a trellis for the peas. Most varieties of peas are much shorter than pole beans and therefore won’t inflict damage with their tendrils.
  • Mint. Said to improve health and flavor.

Garlic and onions may stunt the growth of peas. Likewise, peas may increase the incidence of scab when they precede potatoes in a rotation.


  1. Plant early—as soon as the ground can be worked.  In Kansas, this will typically be between mid-March and mid-April.
  2. If desired, presoak seeds and mix with legume inoculant.  This is not necessary, but will ensure best results.
  3. Plant two inches deep and two inches apart.
  4. Keep seeds watered until they germinate.


Proper watering is crucial to keeping peas healthy.  Never let the soil dry out.  If necessary, use a thick mulch as the weather warms up.  On the other hand, don’t overdo it.  Peas are susceptible to rot when sitting in soggy soil and to mildew when their leaves get wet.

Peas like to climb.  To keep them up off of the ground and make it easier to look for pods, you may want to consider training the vines up strings, wires, or short sticks.

Pests and Diseases

  • Slug.
  • Rabbit.
  • Powdery mildew.
  • Root rot.



Shell peas should be harvested when the pods are full and bumpy to the touch, but before the peas become oversized or the pods start to change color.  Err on the side of harvesting them young.

Sugar snap peas can be harvested at nearly any stage of growth.  For best results, pick them after the peas have started to develop, but before the pods start to wrinkle and dry out.


Do not store homegrown peas for extended periods of time.  They really should be eaten fresh.  If you must store them for a day or two, shell them and store the peas in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Saving Seeds

  1. Peas rarely cross-pollinate, but if you are concerned about it separate varieties by 50 feet.
  2. Allow peas to mature and dry on the vines.
  3. Split or crumble the pods and remove the seeds.
  4. Store in a cool, dry, dark place.  Pea seeds last for about two or three years.

Helpful Resource

Pea Diseases
Only one factsheet is listed at this link, but it covers a variety of viral diseases.

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