How to sow snow peas
Winter is a great time to be sowing snow peas, particularly if you have an empty space in the veggie patch. Snow peas are generally climbing vines, so will need a trellis or similar support to allow it to make maximum use of its growing potential.
Prepare your soil if necessary - we use no till practises here so beds are broad forked and a thick layer of compost added to replenish soil vitality and microbiology. At this time of the year, the soil will be rather cool (although the compost does assist in adding a little warmth. Pop your hand in the middle of a working compost heap, and you will know how warm it can be), so germination will take longer than if seeding in the warmer months.
You can assist the pea to germinate a little faster by soaking it in water for 6-8 hours, or overnight, prior to sowing. This softens the outer seed coat, and starts the germination process. You may read advice suggesting to wait until you see the seed germinate before sowing it. In this case, you will notice a little white "tail" poke out of the seed (this is a small root and indicates germination has commenced). We don't recommend you do this for the simple reason that these roots are very delicate, and can easily be damaged during the seeding process.
Once the seed has been soaked, drain it and push it into the soil to a depth of about 2 centimetres and firm the surface. Give it a light water to settle it in, then do not water again until you see the first green shoot poke through the soil surface. If it is raining, you may not need to water at all. Overwatering peas can lead to rotting, so be mindful and test soil moisture levels if in doubt.
The biggest risk to our pea seeds during germination are mice. They have an uncanny knack of knowing when we have sowed our pea seed, and have the ability to wipe out an entire bed overnight. As we have owls, lizards and dogs (our pet dogs) on our farm, we don't like using poisons, so searched far and wide for a non toxic solution. And we found it! Called flip and slide mouse traps, they simply attach to the top of a large bucket and use peanut butter or sunflower seeds as bait. They automatically reset, and the mice seem to line up to get in. They climb a ramp to the top of the bucket, walk across the lid which flips open on itself, in effect, the weight of the mouse flips them into the bucket. Once in the bucket, they are unable to get back out, leaving you to dispose of the little critters as you see fit. I was incredibly sceptical about the likelihood of these working, but on the first night I caught 12 mice across two taps, and continue to trap more, though thankfully now at a lesser rate. And best of all, I did not loose any pea or broad bean seeds this season, leading to a 100% germination rate. Now to protect them from the snails and slugs!
Finally, it is commonly stated that frost will damage snow pea flowers and the pods themselves. As our varieties have been grown in our market garden across several frosty seasons, they are definitely adapted to growing in frosty areas. I have not seen a lot of frost damage on my snow pea plants, and they certainly bounce back quickly if any does occur.
Remember to help the vines up the trellis - they will use their tendrils to do this, but sometimes need a helping hand. Wait for those stunning flowers to occur in Spring, and you snow peas won't be far away.
Happy growing - eat well, stay well.