By: Mary Ellen Ellis
Few things taste better straight from the garden than a crisp, fresh, and sweet sugar snap pea. This is a smaller, more compact variety that still produces a heavy yield of delicious pea pods and that has some disease resistance.
What are Sugar Bon Peas?
When it comes to a great, versatile variety of pea, Sugar Bon is hard to beat. These plants produce high-quality pea pods of about 3 inches (7.6 cm.) in abundance. But they are also dwarf, growing in height to just about 24 inches (61 cm.), which makes them ideal for small spaces and container gardening.
The flavor of the Sugar Bon pea is deliciously sweet, and the pods are crisp and juicy. These are ideal for enjoying fresh right off the plant and in salads. But you can also use Sugar Bons in cooking: stir fry, sauté, roast, or even can or freeze them to preserve that sweet taste.
Another great quality of Sugar Bon is that the time to maturity is just 56 days. You can start them in spring for a summer harvest and in late summer or early fall, depending on your climate, for a fall to winter harvest. In warmer climates, like zones 9 through 11, this is a great winter crop.
Growing Sugar Bon Peas
Sugar Bon peas are easy to grow simply by sowing seeds directly into the ground. Just be sure that there is no risk of frost. Sow about one inch (2.5 cm.) deep and thin seedlings until those left are 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm.) tall. Sow the seeds where they will have a trellis to climb, or transplant the seedlings so that there is some structure to support the growing vine.
Sugar Bon pea care is pretty simple after your seedlings are in place. Water regularly, but avoid letting the soil get too damp. Watch out for pests and signs of disease, but this variety will resist many common pea diseases, including downy mildew.
Your Sugar Bon pea plants will be ready for harvesting when the pods look mature and are round and bright green. Peas that are past their prime on the vine are duller green and will show some ridges on the pod from the seeds inside.
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How to Grow Peas in Raised Beds
The green vegetable peas are a good source of potassium, fibers, magnesium, vitamin A, C, and B 6 and iron. There are many ways to eat peas. You can stir fry them or cook them in soup or rice. They taste extremely delicious in any way. You can grow peas in spring with many vegetables.
Little maintenance is required for their growth. Disease-restraint varieties do not have any problem with pests and diseases. One pea plant does not provide you with a large number of peas. In a raised bed, you can cluster them. In this way, you can get an appropriate amount of peas. They like cool temperatures. The growing period of peas is within 45-60 days from seeding.
Site. Grow peas in rich, loamy soil that is well-drained. Peas will produce earlier if planted in sandy soil. Later crops can be planted in heavier, clay soil. Plant peas in full sun or partial shade. Peas prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Grow peas supported by poles, a trellis, or fence.
Peas Planting Time. Peas are a cool-season crop that must mature before the weather gets warm. The ideal growing temperature for peas is 55°F to 70°F (13-21°C). Sow peas in the garden 6 weeks before the average last frost date in spring or as soon as the soil can be worked. If you live in a mild-winter region, sow peas so that they come to harvest when the temperature is greater than 55°F (13°C).
For growing in winter, sow round, not wrinkled, pea seeds. Round seeds can withstand cold and wet soil better than wrinkled seed. (However, the wrinkled seeded peas are sweeter.) Round pea varieties are sometimes called “earlies”–for an early or quick harvest. Look for pea varieties that ready for harvest 55 to 60 days.
How to Plant and Space Peas. Sow pea seed 2 inches (5cm) deep, 2 to 3 inches (5-7cm) apart in double rows supported by a trellis, netting, or wire or string supports between two poles for bush varieties. Sow two seeds to each hole. Thin plants to 4 inches (10cm) apart. Space rows 18 to 24 inches (46-61cm) apart. Sow pole or vine varieties in a circle around a pole or stake. Sow seed 8 to 10 inches (20-25cm) from the pole and thin to the 8 strongest plants. Soak seed for 4 to 6 hours before sowing.
Companion plants. Beans, carrots, corn, cucumbers, radishes, turnips. Do not plant next to garlic, onions, or potatoes.
Container Growing Peas. Peas will grow in a container at least 8 inches (20cm) deep. The number of plants required to produce a reasonable crop may not justify the effort.
Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting. Side dress plants with aged compost at midseason.
A more recently developed edible-podded pea, this one originated in America. The pod is thicker and more succulent than that of the Snow Pea, and less fibrous than standard Shelling Peas. These are now one of the most popular types of pea, because there is no work in shelling and very little waste.
Peas are very frost tolerant.
Peas are cool weather plants, hardy down to 20 degrees (28 degrees F when flowering). They prefer mild temperatures (55 to 75 degrees F) and don't usually set pods above 80 degrees F. In areas with hot summers they are grown as a spring or fall crop (fall planting presents its own problems however).
It is important to plant your peas early, so that they have enough time to mature before the hot weather sets in. Normally the first peas are planted 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost date.
Pea seeds will germinate over a wide temperature range, but do so much faster in warm soil. At 40˚F they may take over a month to germinate (if they don’t rot or get eaten in the meantime). At 70˚F they may take only a week.
These large nutritious seeds are vulnerable once planted, so you don't want them sitting in the soil for too long. For this reason it's best to wait until the soil is at least 45 degrees and preferably 60 degrees.
Peas should get about one inch of water per week. In cool spring weather peas will usually get enough water from rainfall so you don't have to irrigate. Watering at this time may encourage mildew and can actually reduce yields. If the soil starts to get dry at any time you must start watering. This is particularly important from the time the flowers appear, as water is needed for pod formation and maturation.
Low nitrogen. Low potassium. Low phosphorous.
Peas aren't very hungry plants.
It is possible to grow peas in fairly deep containers (at least 8"), but they won't be very productive. To increase productivity, increase the amount of compost tea you give your plant, especially during flowering and fruiting.
Delicious, plump pods, excellent flavor.
Learn how to grow peas! This is an easy, rewarding crop for spring or fall.
Tricia shows you how to build a variety of quick and easy vegetable trellises. Garden vertically this year, trellis tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, beans, and peas.
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If, like me, you are a big fan of snap peas, you have noticed that over the years the quality of that classic ‘Sugar Snap’ has been deteriorating. Fortunately, these unique and favorite ‘Sugar Snap’ peas are back!
Back in 1979, ‘Sugar Snap’ was an All-America Selections National Gold Medal Winner. But over time, instead of producing true to type, as many as one-third of the plants turn out to be snow peas or shelling peas instead of the snap peas we love. Availability of the seed has waned as well since many of the seed companies quit carrying it altogether due to problems with quality. What happened?
First, let’s go back to the father of the snap pea and breeder of the original ‘Sugar Snap,’ Dr. Calvin Lamborn. In 1969, fresh out of graduate school, Lamborn went to work for Gallatin Valley Seed Co. in Idaho. As an apprentice to Dr. Mel Parker, one of his first jobs was to try and straighten out the curly pods of ‘Mammoth Melting Sugar’ snow peas. Parker had kept seeds from a mutant plant of the shelling pea ‘Dark Skinned Perfection’ that had extra thick walls on the pod and thought it might do the trick.
Lamborn grew them out, crossed them with the snow pea and a straight pea pod with thick walls was the result. Voila! A new type of edible podded pea was born. True, the heirloom ‘Amish Snap’ pea had been around for years but this was something different. Over the next 10 years they grew the peas, rogued out the off-types and mutants, selectively breeding and replanting only the best ones until they had a stable variety that would come true to seed.
Sugar Snap Peas
Called ‘Sugar Snap’, in 1979 it easily won the gold medal from AAS . It was a game-changer for growers like me who wanted to get as much bang for their buck out of their gardens as possible. Since you could eat them big crunchy pod and all with no waste they quickly grew to be a staple in vegetable gardens across the country.
Lamborn went on to develop other snap pea varieties that he named for family members including ‘Sugar Ann’ which won an AAS award 1984, ‘Sugar Mel’, ‘Sugar Bon’, and ‘Sugar Rae’. Some like ‘Sugar Ann’ and ‘Sugar Bon’ you can still purchase today while others have been dropped. He also developed ‘Super Sugar Snap’ in 1998 which many gardeners, myself included, have been growing instead of the original ‘Sugar Snap’.
The problems with ‘Sugar Snap’ began after the Plant Variety Protection rights, which gave Gallatin exclusive control over it, expired. Then anyone could produce the seeds and sell them to seed companies. No one was monitoring the quality of the seeds they produced and the seedstock became degraded.
Lamborn passed away in 2017 and his children have formed the Magic Seed Inc. to carry on his legacy. They continued to use same traditional (non- GMO ) plant breeding techniques.
‘Sugar Snap’ Peas Are Back!
The Lamborn family teamed up with Johnny’s Selected Seeds, growing out the original ‘Sugar Snap’ pea stock, checking for off-types, and selectively bred only the best plants.
Happily, they have developed a strain that matches the one Calvin Lamborn released in 1979. I, for one am so glad that it is back. It was too good to lose!
Called Calvin’s ‘Sugar Snap,’ it’s the most flavorful of all snap varieties with juicy sweet, crisp pods. This superior strain is cleaned of shell and snow pea off-types.
Calvin’s Sugar Snap Peas
Lamborn also developed some new colored snap peas that Johnny’s also has for sale.
Yellow ‘Honey Snap II .’ Photo courtesy of Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Try purple ‘Royal Snap II ’ (pictured at the top) or yellow ‘Honey Snap II ’ to lend some color to your table.