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a fall pea crop, including purple ‘sugar magnolia’

'Sugar Magnolia' purple snap pea podsI NEED TO FIND SPACE for a big row of fall peas, due to go in the ground here ASAP. Which varieties will I grow again? A purple-podded snap pea called ‘Sugar Magnolia’ will definitely be in the mix (who could resist that color?) as will the unusual big snow pea called ‘Schweizer Riesen.’ More on both of them—and my overall succession-sowing plan to keep the vegetable garden going well into fall.

sugar magnolia purple snap pea flower

purple-pod snap pea ‘sugar magnolia’

I BOUGHT A PACKET of ‘Sugar Magnolia’ from Oregon-based Peace Seedlings a few months back, just one of what the company calls it many “woddities” (as in wonderful oddities). The first purple-podded snap pea to be introduced is the result of 15 years of breeding by Dr. Alan Kapuler, father to one of the Peace Seedlings proprietors. This is a vigorous grower—to about 8 feet—and has beautiful purple flowers, too.  The pods are tasty; sweet enough, if not the sweetest of all, maybe, but so stunning in a salad, in particular, that I am hooked.  I expect this variety will continue to evolve under Kapuler’s watchful eye, and I’ll be watching, too. (My recent interview with Peace Seedlings.)

'Schweizer Riesen' heirloom Swiss snow pea

a big, sweet snow pea, ‘schweizer riesen’

IF I COULD ONLY GROW one pea (perish that thought!) I suspect it would be ‘Schweizer Riesen,’ a Swiss heirloom snow pea that produces oversized green peas (above) on vigorous, tall, purple-flowered vines (below). I’ve never been much of a snow-pea person, but this one changed me, when I was introduced to it a couple of years ago by the biodynamic seed company called Turtle Tree Seed, where they recommend using some of the . The pods are exceptionally large and very sweet, and even if they go a little too long on the vine—when the peas start to show a bit and the pods just barely begin to curl—they’re delicious, or maybe even better. I looked back at last year’s repeat-sowing choices, and this one, along with ‘Mayfair,’ a shelling pea, made the cut. (My interview with Turtle Tree, from the archives.)

Flower of 'Schweizer Riesen' peas.

when to sow fall peas

IT’S TRUE THAT typically you’ll get a smaller pea harvest in fall than from spring sowings, but I heartily recommend giving it a try, anyhow. “Sow fall crops about 8 to 10 weeks before first frost date,” says the Cornell home gardening website. The obstacles are summer heat (which peas loathe), meaning very careful attention to watering is essential throughout. If the soil is hot and dry before sowing, I shade the row (with shape cloth hung on hoops) to cool it, watering deeply a few times over a couple of days before planting.  I have even sometimes left the shade cloth in place during germination. Cornell recommends using powdery-mildew-resistant varieties for fall crops. (How I planted peas with Gregor Mendel in mind this spring.)

keep your vegetable garden going

PEAS ARE JUST ONE of the many crops I’ll be re-sowing, to extend my vegetable-garden season. Salads and root crops, greens for braising, more herbs and bush beans—the list is long:

  1. Nadia@Loveliveandgarden says:

    Gorgeous coloring!!! I concentrated heavily on planting salad this year so I have tons of cucumbers, tomatoes and basil. I did plant sugar snap peas for my kids though :)

  2. elizabeth says:

    I wanted to order some of the Sugar Magnolia from Peace Seedlings, but when I click on your link and click on their 2013 seed list, nothing comes up for me. What am I doing wrong?

  3. The Sugar Magnolias look amazing. Alan Kapuler is doing amazing work.

    I’m going to grow some peas for shelling this winter – ought to be an interesting experiment, since I’ve only grown snap varieties in the past.

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