I’m dreaming of a billowing row of divinely scented, colourful sweet peas, lasting all summer long. So here’s the plan to help you grow the best sweet peas, & to have as many flowers as possible.
How To Sow Sweet Peas:
Fill pots with good, peat-free compost, lightly water the compost to make it damp then sow a couple of seeds in each pot, pushing them in about an inch. Discard the weakest plant, I know, it seems a bit hard-hearted, but its the best method of getting good, strong plants.
Root trainers are ideal to allow plenty of space for the long roots of sweet peas. You can make your own paper pots by wrapping paper round a narrow bottle, beer bottles are good for this. You don’t need a special wooden shape to make them. Either way this is a sustainable solution to planting, & we like that.
Set them in a covered heated propagator until they germinate, or cover the pots with damp newspaper & keep them somewhere warm. Peek at them every day & move them to your most light-filled window ledge as soon as they germinate.
The first pair pair of leaves to appear are seed leaves, the next ones are the true leaves, they look exactly like the leaves of that plant should. When there are at least 2 pairs of true leaves, pinch the top of the seedling off between your thumb nail & first finger. This encourages a bushier plant & eventually more flowers.
They can be moved to a cold greenhouse at this stage, but wait for a sunny day so the shock isn’t too great for them. After 4-6 weeks they can go into a cold-frame to get them more used to being outside ( this is hardening-off ).
Keep the soil damp, not too wet, as they grow.
Meanwhile, prepare the bed where they will eventually be planted. Remove any weeds, & add plenty of compost/soil improver/well-rotted farmyard manure to improve the quality of the soil. This makes it all less likely to dry out in summer. Set up a frame ready for them to climb on. Getting this all ready in advance is key, because it’ll be a busy time in the garden when they need planting out.
Mine will be planted outside at the beginning of April, this is always such a relief as space in the greenhouse is getting tight by then. Tie the small plants into your frame-work as they start to grow, checking them as they get bigger to prevent tangling.
The easy part of all this is picking the flowers regularly as they grow. This frustrates the plants into making more flowers, on its mission to produce seed & continue the species.
I recently came across Grace Alexander on Instagram, they sell flower seed & have some lovely sweet pea varieties. Also their website is a dream to browse, go & have look.
How to make your own paper flower pots on the Gardeners World website, here.
What needs doing in the garden in February here.
Let me know if you have any tips for growing sweet peas, you can leave a comment below.
All photos: Jill Anderson.