June 15, 2024

How to Plant and Grow ‘Sugar Daddy’ Peas

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'Sugar Daddy' has everything we love about sugar snap peas minus the annoying pod strings. Learn all about growing 'Sugar Daddy' now on Gardener's Path.

A vertical close up shot of a sugar daddy pea plant with several ripe pea pods growing on it. Green and white text span the center and bottom of the frame.

Pisum sativum ‘Sugar Daddy’

Is there anything more refreshing than biting into a sweet, crispy snap pea?

‘Sugar Daddy’ might be one of the crispiest and sweetest you have ever tasted. And if you hate the annoying strings found on some cultivars, boy, will you love this one.

A horizontal shot of 'Sugar Daddy' sugar snap pea pods hanging from a plant with flowers closed up.A horizontal shot of \'Sugar Daddy\' sugar snap pea pods hanging from a plant with flowers closed up.

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The edible pods are stringless, so when you bite into the pod, you won’t be inadvertently flossing your teeth.

The plump, juicy peas inside are so delicious that you can also eat them like shelling peas and skip the shell altogether if you prefer.

If you’ve grown peas before, you know they’re one of the easier plants to grow, and ‘Sugar Daddy’ is no exception. If you haven’t, check out our guide to growing peas for some tips.

This guide will lay it all out, and here’s what we’ll discuss:

What You’ll Learn

  • Cultivation and History
  • Propagation
  • How to Grow
  • Growing Tips
  • Maintenance
  • Where to Buy
  • Managing Pests and Disease
  • Harvesting
  • Preserving
  • Recipes and Cooking Ideas
  • Quick Reference Growing Guide

Ready to meet your ‘Sugar Daddy?’ Let’s jump in:

Cultivation and History

We have Dr. Calvin Lamborn to thank for ‘Sugar Daddy.’ Actually, we have Dr. Lambon to thank for sugar snap peas, in general.

As the research director of the Gallatin Valley Seed Co. in Twin Falls, Idaho, he bred the first sugar snap and released it to market in 1979.

There were likely edible pod peas for centuries before that, but they weren’t commercially or widely available, so he gets the credit for bringing them to the masses.

A vertical close up shot of ripe pea pods growing in the garden against a bright blue sky.A vertical close up shot of ripe pea pods growing in the garden against a bright blue sky.

From that, he bred ‘Sugar Daddy,’ originally named ‘String Sugar Snap II,’ releasing it in 1983.

The edible pods are about three inches long and extremely crisp. The flavor is sweet and herbaceous with a hint of floral.

The plant is a semi-dwarf type that grows just 18 inches tall, but the harvest is prolific. Each plant grows an abundance of pods.

‘Sugar Daddy’ Pea Propagation

The easiest way to get started is to sow seeds either directly in the garden or indoors.

You can sometimes find transplants available at nurseries, but it’s so easy to start from seed that there’s really no point in paying more for seedlings unless you want someone to do the early work for you.

Before you sow or transplant outdoors, work in a good amount of well-rotted compost to your planting area. Compost loosens up heavy soil and aids water retention in sandy soils. It also adds nutrients. It’s a triple wonder.

It’s best to grow ‘Sugar Daddy’ in the spring or fall because the plant prefers cool temperatures.

You may be successful growing it in the summer, but you might need to provide some shade during the hottest days. Try to grow the plants during a period when temperatures won’t go above 85°F.

From Seed

To start indoors, fill one or more four-inch pots with seed starting medium and moisten the medium so that it feels like a well-wrung-out sponge.

You don’t want it soggy or too dry. Press a single seed into the center of each container and gently push it in twice as deep as its diameter – or about an inch.

Place the pots somewhere they will receive at least six hours of direct light per day or provide supplemental lighting.

A horizontal shot of 'Sugar Daddy' pea seeds next to the white seed packet lying on a wooden table.A horizontal shot of \'Sugar Daddy\' pea seeds next to the white seed packet lying on a wooden table.
Photo by Kristine Lofgren.

Harden seedlings off for a week before you put them out in the garden to prevent transplant shock.

To do this, take the containers outside to where they will ultimately be planted and set them in place for an hour. Then, bring them back in.

The next day, take them out for two hours, adding an hour each day over the course of about a week.

You can also sow directly outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked.

Prepare the soil by working in some well-rotted compost and sow each seed an inch deep and one foot apart.

You don’t need to provide support, but if you choose to use it, put it in place now. Keep the soil evenly moist as the seeds germinate, which should take 10 to 20 days.

Transplanting

If you start seeds indoors or you find seedlings at a nursery, prepare the soil by working in lots of well-rotted compost, then dig holes about the same size as the growing containers.

The plants should be spaced about a foot apart.

A horizontal shot of a gardener transplanting seedlings into a galvanized steel farm trough garden.A horizontal shot of a gardener transplanting seedlings into a galvanized steel farm trough garden.
Photo by Kristine Lofgren.

Gently remove each seedling from its pot and lower it into the hole before firming up the soil around it. Don’t bury it any deeper than it already was in the container.

Water the soil well and keep it evenly moist but not waterlogged.

How to Grow ‘Sugar Daddy’ Peas

Peas need lots of sun. Preferably full sun, though you might get away with growing them in partial sun, but you’ll probably have a smaller harvest.

If you live somewhere with hot summers or surprise spring or fall heatwaves, either provide afternoon shade or be prepared to protect the plants during the hottest periods.

When temperatures climb above 80°F, cover the plants with shade cloth during the day and uncover them at night.

A horizontal shot of a 'Sugar Daddy' seedling growing in rich, dark garden soil.A horizontal shot of a \'Sugar Daddy\' seedling growing in rich, dark garden soil.
Photo by Kristine Lofgren.

I’ve used umbrellas in a pinch, so don’t feel like you need to buy a bunch of expensive equipment.

They also need consistently moist soil, but I don’t mean soggy and wet. Moist soil should feel like a well-wrung-out sponge and should just hold together if you ball it up in your hand. If you toss it up in the air, the soil ball will come apart.

If you make a little ball and it falls apart when you open your hand, it’s too dry. If you ball it up and water squeezes out, it’s too wet.

You can help the soil retain moisture by putting a layer of straw or well-rotted compost around the plant, keeping it an inch or two away from the stems.

Soil pH doesn’t matter too much, but aim for something between 6.0 and 7.5.

A horizontal shot of 'Sugar Daddy' peas growing in a grow bag with a wire trellis supporting the plant.A horizontal shot of \'Sugar Daddy\' peas growing in a grow bag with a wire trellis supporting the plant.

The plants will support themselves, so don’t worry about giving them something to climb on if you don’t want to. But if you wish, you can certainly give them a little something to scale.

I’m assuming that you worked in compost before planting. If so, don’t bother fertilizing your ‘Sugar Daddy.’

If you forgot this step, top dress with some all-purpose vegetable fertilizer once the plants have reached their full height of 18 inches tall.

I’m a huge fan of Down to Earth’s All Purpose food. It’s made with organic ingredients and comes in a compostable box. All of my plants thrive when I use this product.

A vertical product shot of a box of Down to Earth All Purpose fertilizer.A vertical product shot of a box of Down to Earth All Purpose fertilizer.

Down to Earth All Purpose Fertilizer

Grab a one, five, or 15-pound box at Arbico Organics.

Because of its compact shape, ‘Sugar Daddy’ is ideal for growing in a container.

Since the plant is more compact than many other cultivars, it does well even in small containers. A gallon pot would be totally fine, so long as it has drainage holes.

Growing Tips

  • Grow in full or partial sun.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist.
  • Feed with an all-purpose food when the plant reaches its mature height.

Maintenance

Make sure the mulch stays in place and refresh it as needed.

If any weeds start to sneak through, get rid of them immediately, as they compete for resources and can play host to pests and diseases.

Other than that, you just need to pinch the plant as it grows to encourage bushiness, if necessary.

You might also need to provide support if the plant becomes leggy or during extremely windy periods.

Where to Buy ‘Sugar Daddy’ Peas

‘Sugar Daddy’ isn’t the most common cultivar out there, but it isn’t particularly difficult to find. You’ll find seeds at lots of local nurseries and several online retailers.

A vertical product shot of 'Sugar Daddy' pea pods lying stacked on a white plate.A vertical product shot of \'Sugar Daddy\' pea pods lying stacked on a white plate.

‘Sugar Daddy’

For example, you can buy 200 organic seeds at Burpee or 25 grams, four ounces, or one, five, or 25 pounds at True Leaf Market.

Managing Pests and Disease

Deer and rabbits seem to adore pea plants. I swear they can sense them from a mile away, and they’ll make a direct beeline to devour the plants. They can kill a young plant in one night and a mature plant nearly as fast.

Exclusion is the best technique, so deer fencing or cages are going to be your friend.

Aphids, slugs, and snails are going to be your biggest challenge. Aphids can be dealt with by spraying the plants with a strong stream of water once a week.

Slugs and snails can be addressed using your preferred method. I use slug pellets, but you can read our guide for other options.

When it comes to disease, keep an eye out for powdery mildew and fusarium wilt. If you see a powdery white coating on the leaves, read our guide to powdery mildew to learn how to address it. Fortunately, this cultivar is largely resistant, but never say never.

Fusarium wilt on peas is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum and results initially in the leaves at the base of the plant turning yellow, followed by the plant wilting.

It moves through water, soil, on equipment or tools, and via pests. Once it’s in the soil, the pathogen can live for years and you can’t eliminate it.

For that reason, you should rotate your crops regularly. Nightshades and peas should only be planted in the same place once every ten years if fusarium is a problem in your area.

Harvesting ‘Sugar Daddy’ Peas

‘Sugar Daddy’ will mature in about 65 days, with the peas ripening at various times.

You can tell it’s harvest time because the pods will be large and plump. Snap one open and taste the peas inside. That’s the best way to be sure.

Once they’re ready, gently pull the pods off the vine. You don’t need to harvest them all at once, but don’t leave them too long or the pods will become bitter.

If they start turning yellow, they’re overripe, and will be woody and hard so you won’t want to eat them.

Preserving

If you intend to eat your peas soon, you can place them in a perforated or paper bag and put them in the refrigerator crisper drawer where they’ll keep for up to a week.

If you want to keep them for longer, boil the peas for just a minute or two, dry them, and place them on a cookie sheet.

Place this in the freezer until they’re frozen hard. Put these in a bag and stick the bag in the freezer, where they’ll keep for up to a year.

Recipes and Cooking Ideas

Fresh peas are wonderful in summer salads! My grandma used to break up two cups of sugar snap peas and toss them with one small chopped onion, preferably purple.

Then, she’d add the juice of one lemon, a big splash of white vinegar to taste, and some olive oil – about two or three tablespoons. Mix it together and let it sit for a few hours before adding salt and pepper to taste, then dig in!

They’re essential for a good pad thai or pasta salad. Or try out this recipe for asparagus, snow pea, and black-eyed pea salad from our sister site, Foodal.

Quick Reference Growing Guide

Plant Type: Herbaceous annual vegetable Tolerance: Frost
Native To: Cultivated Variety Maintenance: Low
Hardiness (USDA Zone): 3-10 Soil Type: Loose, rich
Season: Spring, fall Soil pH: 6.0-7.5
Exposure: Full sun to partial sun Soil Drainage: Well-draining
Time to Maturity: 65 days Companion Planting: Alyssum, beans, beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, peppers, radishes, spinach, turnips
Spacing: 12 inches Avoid Planting With: Alliums
Planting Depth: 1 inch (seeds), depth of root ball (transplants) Order: Fabales
Height: 18 inches Family: Fabaceae
Spread: 12 inches Genus: Pisum
Water Needs: Moderate Species: Sativum
Common Pests and Diseases: Deer, rabbits; Aphids, slugs, snails; Fusarium wilt, powdery mildew Cultivar: Sugar Daddy

No Strings Attached

There’s a lot to love about delicious sugar snap peas, except perhaps for the strings on some varieties.

‘Sugar Daddy’ ditches the strings but retains the sweet, herbaceous, slightly fruity flavor that makes a good pea stand out.

A horizontal shot of 'Sugar Daddy' pea pods hanging from a plant with flowers close up.A horizontal shot of \'Sugar Daddy\' pea pods hanging from a plant with flowers close up.

How will you consume your bounty? Are you a raw pea snacker? Do you have a good stir fry recipe? Share in the comments!

Pea growing is one of the easiest garden endeavors out there, but there’s still plenty more to learn. If you found this guide useful, you might like these, as well:

  • How to Plant and Grow Snap Peas
  • Tips for Growing ‘Dwarf Grey’ Snow Peas
  • Tips for Growing Peas Indoors

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