Not long after the snow melts from your garden, you can plant snow pea seeds directly in the soil. Then just 60 or so days later, you'll be stir-frying them for one of the season's first taste of homegrown vegetables. Snowpeas are such a treat you'll want to grow as many as you can. Here's how.
Most Productive Varieties
Researchers in Alabama, Oregon and Florida grew a bunch of different snowpea varieties side-by-side, harvested the pods, weighed them and came up with some nicely consistent results: In all three locations, 'Oregon Sugar Pod' (or its more disease-resistant variation, 'Oregon Sugar Pod II') yielded the most pounds of pods. In the state for which it is named, 'Oregon Sugar Pod' produced 8.1 pounds of peas per 12 foot row vs. the 5.1 pounds produced by its closest competitor. In the other two trials, OSP or OSP II outyielded the other varieties by at least 20 percent. The reason for this extraordinary output, explains James Baggett, Ph.D., of Oregon State University, breeder of the productive peas, is that most snowpea plants produce one pod at each "growth node," but the two 'Oregon Sugar Pod' varieties produce two pods per node.
OSP and OSPII start bearing about 65 to 70 days after you sow the seeds. That's fine if you garden in an area with a long, cool spring. But all snowpeas stop producing once daytime temperatures begin to exceed 75 degrees F, so if you don't have 80 or so reliable days of below 75 degree F temps, go with a faster-maturing variety like 'Dwarf White Sugar' or 'Short N' Sweet'. Both begin bearing just 50 days after you sow the seed.
The latter pair may also be the best yielders for Midwestern gardeners. In field trials conducted in Ohio, short-vined 'Dwarf White Sugar' yielded more pounds of pods than any other variety—including 'Oregon Sugar Pod'—even though the individual pods of 'Dwarf White Sugar' are smaller. OSP bears 3 to 4 inch long pods; the pods from 'Dwarf White Sugar' are 2 to 2.5 inches.
If you prefer bigger pods, grow 'Mammoth Melting Sugar', a high-yield runner-up in the Alabama and Florida trials, or 'Oregon Giant—both bear 4 to 5 inch long pods. Be aware, however, that 'Mammoth Melting Sugar' needs 75 days to start producing those whoppers; 'Oregon Giant' needs only 65.
In areas where spring is relentlessly damp and cool, choosing disease resistant varieties is the key to higher yields. So if your past pea plantings have been plagued by pea enation virus (vines curl, then produce no pods or small, yellowish ones) or powdery mildew (white powdery mold on the leaves, stems and pods), plant 'Oregon Sugar Pod II', which resists both diseases.