Growing sweet peas – really good sweet peas – can take a fair amount of hard work; hard work which can start as early as this month.
Dedicated sweet pea growers will be gearing up to sow the hard, rounded seeds into small pots filled with compost. And to help things get started, they’ll have soaked the seeds overnight to encourage them to germinate quicker.
As the seedlings emerge, they tend to become tall and leggy so to persuade them to grow stronger and bushier, nip out the top of the stem just above a set of leaves.
Next year, when the young plants are growing well and the risk of frost has passed, stick them outside to acclimatise. Give them a week or so to get used to the great outdoors and then plant them in their permanent home.
Pick the sunniest spot you can find and make sure the soil is stuffed with nutrients – sweet peas are greedy feeders and do best in rich, moist soil. Well-rotted manure is much appreciated.
Sweet peas, being climbers, need some form of support so they can grow upwards. Many gardeners maintain that individual bamboo canes, a foot or so apart, are the best, but as long as the plants can cling on with their tendrils, anything will do. Even letting them clamber up and over conifer hedges can be very effective.
Always ensure that the soil is moist – watering can become a daily chore but it is well worth the effort to produce masses of sweet-smelling blooms. By removing any faded flowers or seedpods you’ll be encouraging even more blooms. And the more flowers you cut for indoor decorations, the more the plants will throw out new deliciously-scented blooms.
If you can’t be bothered starting the growing season this month or next, you can plant the seeds in spring or even buy plant plugs – miniature sweet peas already germinated and just waiting to be grown on a bit before going outside to get on with their task of producing masses of flowers.