17 March 2016

Time To Sow - Sweet Peas

 In Australia it has become tradition that sweet peas are sown on St. Patrick's Day, but they can be sown as early as February or as late as April. Beautifully fragrant, they make an excellent cut flower for the home and they come in a myriad of colours from white through to crimson, some varieties grow to 1.8 metres, but there are also dwarf varieties available.

How to grow sweet peas

 Sweet peas grow best in an open, friable soil that has been enriched with organic matter, that has a pH level of between 6 and 7, if your soil pH is above this, you will need to add lime, and below that you will need to add dolomite, to the soil before sowing.

Before sowing, soak seeds overnight in warm water, this will help the seeds to germinate quicker. Sow seeds directly into soil 2cms deep and 20cms apart and keep moist, but don't overwater,  until germination. Seedlings should emerge in 10 - 14 days. Sweet peas need a sunny position, with a minimum of six hours of sunlight a  day.

Like all members of the pea family, sweet peas love to climb so they will need a fence, lattice, cane or tepee for them to climb up.

Seedlings will need protection from slugs, snails and apparently they are a favourite treat of sparrows. Feed with a fertiliser low in nitrogen otherwise you will get lots of leaf growth and few flowers. Flowering occurs approximately 14 weeks after sowing. To ensure repeat flowering be sure to pick the flowers as they open.

Saving seeds for next year

It is so easy and cost effective to save your own seed from this year's plants for growing next year. As the flowering season comes to an end just leave some flowers on the vines to form pods. Once the pods turn tan in colour, pick them, and store them somewhere until they are completely dry, the seeds will be dark brown or black by then, split them open and store in a labelled paper bag in a cool, dark spot. You can add a packet of silica gel desiccant to the bag to take care of any moisture in the air.

If you are interested in reading about the history of the sweet pea click here.


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