What is a Sweet Pea? Sweet Peas are from the same family as Peas, Beans, and Peanuts
(legumes), but the seeds are inedible and TOXIC (so don’t plant them near your other peas as the flowers look the same!)
-Soak your sweet pea seeds in tepid water to rehydrate them (helps them get off to a quicker start but it isn't essential as they will still germinate well in moist compost)
-Start by soaking the seeds overnight, most seeds will swell up, get softer, and may even lighten in color, if there is no change, you may need to try “chipping”, removal of a very small part of the hard outer seed coat. This is done on the side opposite the ‘eye' (dark little spot on the seed) and you’ll need a blade or file to cut through the outer shell (without damaging the seed underneath). Try soaking again for a few hours after chipping
-Plant your seeds between January and March. Some early protection will be required, especially if the temperature drops below freezing
-Keep the seeds in temperatures above freezing but below 50F, if your area is windy, use a cold frame, or colder greenhouse
-If you prefer to start your seeds indoors, you’ll need to keep them in a spare, unheated room or cold windowsill. You can start your seeds in damp paper towels or seed trays
-When planting, be sure to choose a sunny area, with well draining soil. You can choose an area that is low on nitrogen, since legumes produce nitrogen, they will enrich the soil wherever they are planted. This is why crop rotation is SO IMPORTANT!
-Sow 1/2” deep and at least 6” apart, cover with compost, and water well
-Keep an eye on your new shoots for slugs (they love sweet pea shoots)
-After the first two leaves have shown and are properly developed, you can pinch the tip to promote side shoots and a bushier plant - Simply nip off the top of the stem just above a set of leaves - the more shoots there are, the more flowers will be produced!
-Once your sweet peas are growing well and the main risk of frost has passed, you can remove any cold frame or covering
-Sweet peas are climbers and will need a suitable support - put your plant support frame into position from the beginning (you may need to guide the plant up the support)
-Keep plants well watered, dry soil will make them go to seed more quickly
-Remove any faded sweet pea flowers or seedpods as soon as possible to encourage more blooms
-The more that you cut, the more sweet peas flowers you will get