How to Grow Sweet Peas
If you want to know how to grow sweet peas, whose delicate and profuse colourful flowers can fill the garden with the most delicious scent, then I hope to bring you a tip or two to assist you to grow the most wonderful garden display of flowers that excel as cut flowers for the house.
No other garden hardy annual is grown by both amateur and professionals alike as much as the sweet pea. Sometimes called the prince of hardy annuals, they are grown for both garden and home, and by professionals for exhibitions and public displays of excellence.
Often thought of as old-fashioned cottage garden plants, sweet peas evoke memories of summer, and sunshine, and of a garden filled with fragrance and honey bees.
They are among the easiest of all garden flowers to grow, and the little work involved in planting their seeds and preparing a trellis support for them is repaid a thousand-fold in the scent and enjoyment you will receive from them.
They are also excellent for growing a living screen, to offer summer privacy or to separate the vegetable garden from the flower garden.
How to Grow Sweet Peas in the Garden for Pleasure
- Choose a sunny spot in your garden and prepare the ground well by digging it in the autumn and incorporating dung or a compound fertilizer to ensure the soil is enriched.
- In the spring, rake over the surface to remove any weeds.
- Sow your sweet pea seeds in double drills, about 10” apart, 1” deep with each seed planted 2” or 3” apart.
- Leave a space of at least four feet between pairs of drills.
- Plant the seeds in March or April, water in well, and leave well alone.
- Stake them as they grow, with either brushy hazel branches or a trellis or chicken wire support.
- Weed as necessary.
This will give you delicious blooms all summer long that can be cut for the house, or left in place to be enjoyed by all who visit your garden or yard.
Sweet peas keep blooming so long as you dead-head the flowers to stop them going to seed.
How to Grow Sweet Peas for Exhibitions
The professional grower takes much more care of his seedlings when growing exhibition-grade sweet pea blooms.
- In early October, fill several small pots with top-grade seed compost, and plant 2 or 3 seeds in each pot.
- Water well and place the pots in a garden cold frame to germinate and grow.
- Water as required.
- At the end of the year, the plants should have grown a few inches, and the growing tip should now be nipped off, taking the plant back to 3” in height.
- Several side shoots growths will be made, and all but one should be removed.
- The plant is now allowed to grow with one side tip, and any others that start to grow should be removed as soon as they are noticed.
- The ground where the sweet peas are to be grown is dug deeply, with dung, bone meal and wood ash incorporated.
- A top dressing of sulphate of potash is added.
- The seedlings are removed from their protective cold frame and hardened off, ready to plant out at the end of March, start of April, as soon as the soil has warmed a little.
- From each pot of 2 or 3 seedlings, only the biggest and strongest looking is chosen, and each plant is planted out at least 9” apart, and provided with a 7 foot cane on which to support their future growth.
- Each sweet pea is kept to a single stem, and they are each trained to grow up their own cane.
- All side shoots, flowers and tendrils are removed.
- Once the plant reaches 3 feet high, or a few weeks before the first scheduled professional (or amateur) show, flowers may be allowed to start developing.
- Because the plant has not been allowed to expend any energy growing tendrils, side shoots, or even flowers up until this stage, all of its energies will be put into producing the most magnificent blooms.
- Exhibition sweet peas are fed throughout the growing season, starting in May with generous proportions of dried blood, liquid manure and compound fertilisers added at reasonable intervals.
- The expert grower watches his plants very carefully, and can quickly correct deficiencies or over-feeding symptoms as the plants grow.
The end result is each plant carrying 4 to 6 wonderful, show-stopping blooms on 12” stems.
Sweet peas can also be started off inside a heated greenhouse in January, for show or simply for garden use the following summer.