Easy to grow and absolutely delicious, Chinese snow peas are a top choice for anyone who wants to grow their own veg at home.
In this guide, our experts will explain the ideal growing conditions while revealing their top care tips.
Let’s find out more.
What Are Chinese Snow Peas?
Chinese snow peas are a variety of pea-producing soft, edible pods usually harvested before they have fully matured. Often referred to as just snow peas, they are native to Southeastern Europe. From there, they spread to China and have become a staple ingredient in many Asian dishes.
Snow pea belongs to the Fabaceae family, a group of vegetables commonly known as legumes. The scientific name for this plant is Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon. Unlike the common pea, the pods of Chinese snow peas have less fiber in their inner lining, which makes them edible as well as easier to digest.
Chinese snow peas are climbing plants. Nowadays, you can also find bushy hybrids, but the most common varieties produce long vines that can stretch to 3 feet (90 cm). The snow pea flowers are small but showy, with vivid pink and purple petals.
How To Grow Chinese Snow Peas
The Chinese snow pea is versatile and easy to care for. You can grow it in your garden, or if you’re in a pinch for space, it also grows well in containers. Let’s start with the basics.
– When to Plant Chinese Snow Peas
Chinese snow peas are a cold-season crop. The ideal time for planting snow peas is early spring, which gives them time to grow and produce pea pods before the weather gets too hot.
They have a mild tolerance to frost but will struggle to grow during the hot, humid summer months or if temperatures exceed 86 F (30 C).
The recommended temperature range for growing snow peas is between 60 and 75 degrees F ( 15 to 24 C).
You can plant Chinese snow peas outdoors as soon as the soil temperature reaches 52 F (11 C). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can simply wait a week or so after the last frost has passed. As a rule of thumb, Chinese snow peas can be planted in your garden when the soil is not frozen and easy to work with.
Chinese snow peas can be sowed in the soil directly or germinated indoors. Getting them started indoors will give your growing season a head start, especially if you live in an area with very cold winters.
– Germinating Chinese Snow Peas Seeds
The Chinese snow pea seeds have a tough outer layer, so giving them a good soak overnight can help speed up germination. Put the peas in a container with room temperature water and let them stay there for at least six hours.
After they have been soaked, you can either sow them directly in the garden soil or germinate them indoors.
For indoor germination, we recommend using compostable seed pots. Fill the pots with universal soil and use your finger to poke a hole in the middle, about ½ inch deep. Place one seed in each pot, cover with soil and water well. Keep the pot in a room where the temperature stays around 65 F (18 C), and your Chinese peas seeds should germinate in 7-10 days.
If you’re germinating Chinese snow peas indoors, now is an excellent time to set some seeds aside for dou miao. These are snow pea sprouts and can be used as a tasty and nutritious variety of microgreens. Check out our separate guide on how to grow and harvest dou miao in your home.
Growing Chinese Snow Peas Outdoors
Whether you’re germinating the seeds indoors or planting them straight in the garden, here’s what you need to know about planting Chinese snow peas.
Plant Chinese snow peas in the sunniest part of your garden. They need full sun exposure and at least six hours of light per day. Giving them enough light will ensure healthy growth and an abundant harvest, as well as give the pea pods a sweeter flavor.
Chinese snow peas grow best in moisture-retentive, well-draining soils, with a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0. Given the fact that they’re one of the first crops you’re going to grow in the garden, it’s best that you start preparing the soil in autumn. Dig the soil to a depth of 1 foot (30 cm), and work in some compost or manure.
Like all legumes, Chinese snow peas have the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. This is great news if you have a garden with poor soil. However, the plants will also need potassium and phosphorus to produce fruit. The easiest way to give the young plants a nutrient boost is to add some organic matter, such as compost or even vegetable kitchen waste.
– Transplanting and Spacing
Plant your Chinese snow peas seedlings 2 feet (60 cm) apart, in rows that are spaced out at about 3 feet (90 cm). If you’re planting the seeds in the soil directly, sow the seeds 4 inches (10 cm) apart, at a depth of 2 inches (5 cm). Thin the young plants as needed by removing the ones that are too small.
Chinese snow peas are a climbing plant and can reach heights of up to 3 feet (90 cm). Our recommendation is to provide them with a trellis for the vines to attach themselves to. This will provide air circulation around the plants and also make harvesting the pods easier.
Water your Chinese snow peas thoroughly and regularly. They do not tolerate drought, and the flowers may not set if the growing conditions are too dry. On average, you will need to water your peas once a week or twice a week during hot and dry periods. The plants will need more water when they start flowering.
Always water your Chinese snow peas plants at the bottom, not by pouring water on the leaves. This ensures that the plants are watered evenly and prevents fungal diseases. Once the plants are at least 1 foot (30 cm) tall, you can also add some mulch to the plants’ base to help keep the moisture in the soil.
Chinese snow peas don’t typically need fertilizers. If they’re growing in soil that has been amended with plenty of organic matter before sowing, you can skip fertilizer applications entirely. But if the soil is poor in nutrients or you notice that the plants are struggling to form pods, you can give your peas a boost after the second harvest.
Use a diluted fertilizer that’s low in nitrogen but rich in potassium and phosphorus. A nutrient ratio of 5-10-10 is ideal for this crop.
The nutrient-rich soil and frequent watering can create a very inviting garden bed for weeds. As a result, you will need to weed your Chinese snow peas patch regularly. In an organic garden, you can simply remove the weeds by hand, taking care to pull their roots from the soil.
You can encourage your Chinese snow peas to develop a bushy growth by trimming the tips of the vines. This way, the plant will start growing lateral vines, which will bear more flowers and pods. The pea tips are edible, have a pleasant green aroma, and make a great addition to salads.
When to Harvest Chinese Snow Peas
On average, Chinese snow peas take between 60 and 70 days to reach maturity after sowing. Depending on your preference, you can either harvest the pea pods when they’re young or wait until the peas have fully developed.
Chinese snow peas are typically harvested when the pods are about 2 inches (5 cm) long, bright green in color, and with the peas forming very small lumps inside the pod. At this stage, the pods have a distinct sweetness and a tender texture and can be eaten whole.
Mature peas are also tasty, but the pod becomes tough and inedible, while the peas lose their sweetness and become starchy.
How to Harvest Chinese Snow Peas
To harvest Chinese snow peas, use a sharp pair of gardening scissors to cut the pod stem. If you’re harvesting by hand, use one hand to hold the vine and the other to gently snip the stem, to avoid breaking the vines. In the right growing conditions, you can harvest new pods several times a week. The more you harvest, the more flowers and pods the plant will produce.
When you’re done harvesting Chinese snow peas for the year, cut down the plants and add them to your compost heap.
Legumes are a wonderful crop to have in your garden because their roots fix nitrogen in the soil. Our recommendation is to rotate your crops, and the year after planting Chinese snow peas, use the same spot to grow vegetables that need a lot of nitrogen.
Some of our favorites are cabbages, broccoli, potatoes, salad greens, or different varieties of Asian spinach.
Chinese snow pea pods can be kept in the vegetable drawer of your fridge for up to five days. Avoid washing them unless they’re dirty, and cover them in plastic wrap to prolong their life. You can also blanch and freeze them for later use, although they will lose some of their unique texture and flavor in the process.
– Cooking With Chinese Snow Peas
The young Chinese pea pods can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a crisp, crunchy texture, with a noticeable sweetness and a mild pea taste. Given that they’re typically harvested when young, they pack more vitamins and minerals than mature peas and are an excellent source of iron, magnesium, vitamins C and K, fiber, and protein.
You can use them in stir-fries, soups, and curries, or even just blanch them for a couple of minutes and serve with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Common Pests and Problems
Here are the main pests and problems to keep an eye out for when growing Chinese snow peas.
– Chocolate Spot
Chocolate spot is caused by the Botrytis fabae fungus, which results in leaf discoloration and wilting plants. Your Chinese snow peas crop can be very susceptible to this disease in hot, humid conditions or if you apply nitrogen-rich fertilizers.
Unfortunately, there are no fungicides that specifically work against chocolate spot. In an organic garden, you should remove infected plants as soon as possible and burn them.
No garden is safe from aphid attacks. On the bright side, controlling them can be very easy. Hose down your plants to dislodge the large clusters of aphids, then spray them with a soapy water solution.
Chinese snow peas make a stunning addition to both your garden and your kitchen! And, with this guide, you’re sure to enjoy a plentiful harvest.
Let’s go over the basics one more time:
- Chinese snow peas are a cold-season crop, best grown in early spring.
- They love plenty of sunlight and moisture and don’t typically require fertilizers.
- The pea pods are harvested when young and can be enjoyed raw or cooked.
- Chinese snow peas roots help fix nitrogen in the soil. Use this to your advantage by planting nitrogen-loving crops the following year, such as cabbages, salad, and potatoes.
These veggies easy to grow and delicious. All you need to do now is grab a pack of Chinese snow pea seeds and get sowing!
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