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Gardening in the Garden State — Snow Peas

flickr – penelope waits

St. Paddy’s Day marks the start of the growing season for gardeners across New Jersey.  It’s a tradition to plant snow peas. It just makes sense, they are green, they don’t mind the cold weather, and they basically just sit in the soil until conditions are perfect.

Snow peas are one of those rare plants in the garden that are so easy to grow, you almost feel guilty.  Just plant some seeds a couple inches apart in rows about 6 inches apart, and add something for them to grow on. cover with an inch of soil and water in.  That’s really all you need to do and they will produce tons of peas.

The cool thing about snow peas is the more you pick them, the more they grow.  I like to pick mine young and tender and eat them whole with the shells on.  You can also let them grow big and shell them, but that’s just more work if you ask me.

Snow peas are legumes, and like most legumes, snow peas host beneficial bacteria called rhizobia in their root nodules, which fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. It’s free fertilizer people! You can buy bean inoculant to help ensure this process takes place. Simply roll the seeds around in this dust before planting and you’re good to go.

Take advantage of this extra nitrogen and plan accordingly when picking out where to plant them. Any plant that doesn’t fruit or flower would love to be planted next in the spot where you grew your snow peas last. Lettuce, corn, cabbage, and kale just to name a few, but if you plant say tomatoes, they might end up tall, spindly, and bearing little fruit.

If you’re superstitious like me, you’ll take all the good luck you can get and plant them on St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re not, well you can plant them anytime in the next several weeks and they will do just fine too. I usually plant them now, and then do a second and/or third batch when the first is up and growing. This way once the first batch stops producing, the next batch is just about ready to be picked. Happy St. Patrick’s and happy planting NJ!

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