SOWING SWEET PEAS
Sweet Peas are arguably the prettiest of the autumn seeds with their bright colours and heavenly scent, not to mention the fact that they make gorgeous cut flowers for vases or in bunches to give to friends.
March to May is the time to sow these spring flowering beauties in your garden. Let us show you how with these surefire tips…
Sweet Peas are available in climbing and bushy or dwarf varieties – check the seed packet to ensure you choose the one you prefer. The climbing varieties can grow up to 2,5 meters high and will need some support to attach themselves to like a trellis, obelisk, arch, a sweet pea net stretched between poles or a teepee made with stakes or branches. The dwarf varieties can be planted in beds, borders, pots, barrels and window boxes.
Sowing the Seeds
Choose an area in full sun to plant your Sweet Peas.
Prepare the soil a week or two in advance by thoroughly digging over the soil to the depth of a spade’s blade, at least (±30cm). Remove all rocks, large clumps and weeds. Mix in a generous amount of good quality compost and a handful of bone meal or vermicast. Rake soil to level it.
Before sowing, soak the Sweet Pea seeds overnight in luke warm water to soften the hard outer layer.
Sweet pea seeds must be sown directly into the garden bed. Plant your seeds in beds at the depth indicated on the seed packet (usually about 2cm deep) and 10-15cm apart for the climbing varieties or 15-20cm apart for the bushy ones. If you’re planting the climbing variety around a structure like an obelisk or teepee, plant 2 seeds about 5cm apart next to each stake. When the shoots are big enough, remove the weaker of the 2 seedlings.
After planting, water the seeds gently and thoroughly. Water in the early morning and water at soil level and not onto the leaves, if possible. Continue watering every day until germination and thereafter be sure to keep the seedlings moist, but not waterlogged. Never allow the soil to dry out. Regular watering will ensure an abundance of these delightful beauties!
The germination period for Sweet Peas is 7 to 10 days. When the seedlings are about 15cm high, pinch the growth tip to encourage side shoots. Spread a layer of fine mulch between seedlings to keep the roots cool, keeping the mulch a few inches away from the little stems. At this point start fertilising the plant fortnightly with a potassium-rich, water soluble fertiliser.
Any ‘stray’ tendrils that don’t attach themselves to whatever they’re climbing up on, can be tied with a soft plant tie or bit of stocking to the support. The rest will merrily climb along their support or grow into a beautiful bush. Come late winter or early spring you will be rewarded with a profusion of fragrance and colour.
Pick their beautiful blooms for your vases and share them with friends, because when it comes to the prettiest of the spring flowering annuals, being generous only results in being rewarded – the more you pick your Sweet Peas, the more they flower!