Sweet peas are one of my favourite flowers and something that I have grown every year for years, its not spring unless I have some sweet peas sown! The scent from sweet peas is just incredible and the range of bright colours to choose from leaves you spoilt for choice adding that extra vibrancy in your summer garden. The other advantage is that the sticks or wigwams used to for the sweet peas to climb up adds some height and an extra dimension to your garden. So how do you grow sweet peas?
The seeds germinate pretty easily. You can either plant them in the winter (anytime from October- February) and over winter them in a greenhouse or cold frame or in March/April sowing the seeds inside and then planting them out once they have established. Planting your sweet peas in the winter will make your plants more robust with a stronger root network but its not essential to plant then if you have missed the boat you can still plant in March and April.
To plant, put the seeds about 3 cm deep in some multi purpose compost and ensure the compost is moist. Make sure you planted the seeds into fairly deep pots as the roots like to develop straight down.
Once the seeds have germinated and you have some good growth on the seedling, pinch out the leading shoot as this helps the plants to develop robust side shoots and therefore more flowers.
Once the seedlings have some robust growth and looking strong and healthy they are ready to plant out in April/May once the heavy frosts risk has gone. Prepare the area where you are going to be planting them out by ensuring you have added some organic matter in the soil, manure is ideal if possible as they are hungry plants. You can add liquid fertiliser as well. They also like to be well watered so you may need to water over the coming months.
Push stakes or long sticks (5-6ft) into the ground either in rows or to make a tepee shape. Plant the seedlings at the bottom of the stakes close enough so that they are able to climb up them. They will need to be tied to the sticks loosely with garden twine so that they are able to attach themselves with their tendrils as they grow. As the plants grow you will need to tie them further up the sticks so that they don't flop away from the sticks.
Once the sweet peas starting flowering, start to pick, the more you pick the more flowers will come. Keep picking! If seed pods appear later on start to pick these off as well this will stop the plants starting to go to seed and flower production to reduce. Also snip off any dead flower heads. Top Tip: Sweet peas have a relatively short vase life of 4-6 days so pick the sweet peas just before the flowers open up completely to ensure a longer vase life. Position your vase of sweet peas some where are you walk into the house so you get a waft as scent as you walk in.