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Growing Sweet Peas

These are the queen of flowers, giving a bunch of sweetly scent sweet peas is one of the joys of having a garden.


Sweet peas grow well in summer but an autumn sowing will give you a stronger plant with better flowers, like their edible cousin they are happier in cooler weather. The seeds are sown from March through to May this means they will flower late winter early spring. In the milder climates the seeds can be planted straight into the ground, in cooler regions start them off in a seed tray, transplanting them to the garden when the danger of frost has passed.

Good drainage is necessary, if the soil stays wet it will prove fatal to your sweet peas, plenty of sun is just as important, it can be hard to find in the winter but it is imperative. They will tolerate light wind but anything stronger is hard on the plant and flowers.

Sweet peas prefer a sweet soil, prepared a few weeks in advance, the site needs to be well dug over removing any lumps or clumps, add compost and a few handfuls of lime, and mix that through. By preparing the area early you are letting the compost settle in to the soil before you sow your seeds. This is especially important if you are using homemade compost, because when fresh from the compost bin it is too rich.

Care Support needs to be considered when choosing a spot, a fence with plastic trellis or an empty climbing bean frame are perfect, as long as they are in the sun. If you don’t have a fixed type of support then a simple tepee made out of bamboo canes is fine, you can them buy readymade or make your own. Whatever support you use it needs to be at least 2 metres tall and secured well; the plants get heavy when they are fully grown.

Young plants will need to be coached to attach themselves to the main support. The easiest way to do this is to provide some little twigs so the young tendrils have something to cling to as they grow towards the support. Plants will handle a few light frosts but the flower buds will be damaged so protect if necessary.

We recommend a regular light feeding of a general fertiliser once a month, avoid fertilisers with a high rate of nitrogen, too much nitrogen will produce an abundance of leaves at the expense of flowers.

As the first flowers appear pinch them out use your thumb and fore finger, this will benefit the plant, letting it become stronger before it supports flowers. Remove flowers that are left on the plant as they finish, this will prolong flowering by stopping the production of a seed pod.

Team tips • Sweet Peas are nitrogen rich so don’t waste the foliage once flowering has finished, remove from the ground and roughly chop them up with your spade, dig them into the soil as a green manure. • Slugs and snails will love the tender young plants, protect with slug and snail bait


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