Sweet Peas - Sowing Seeds Directly into
Technique Tips with Photos print
In mild winter climates,
where the ground does not freeze,
sweet pea seeds should be fall-sown directly into the garden from September
through November to grow strong root systems and then bloom in spring. If you do
not get your seeds planted in fall, plant as early as possible in the spring in
a well drained spot that offers some afternoon shade.
In cold winter areas: wait until the harshest weather has past
and sow about a month before the last frost date . If spring turns hot and humid
early in your area, mulch seedlings well and plant where vines will get some
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may choose to nick your sweet pea seeds before planting. Nicking the seed with a
nail clipper breaks the outer coat of the seed so it can absorb water
immediately. By doing this a larger percentage of your seeds will germinate and
they will sprout a few days earlier.
Here's how: hold a seed between your thumb and forefinger. With the other hand,
hold the clippers at an angle so that you use one end of the blade, then clip
your seed. Your goal is to make a slice through the brown top coat of the seed,
not to take a chunk out. Sometimes you can barely see the nick you made and
sometimes a piece of the seed coat cracks off and you see the lighter colored
inner seed. Both are correct!
Sweet peas need well-drained, fertile soil, so before planting add some aged
manure or other finished compost into your garden bed, work it into the soil,
and rake the bed to create a fairly level surface. With a tool or stick, make a
furrow. It is important to bury your seeds at the proper depth (1 in. for
sweet peas) so make sure your furrow is 1 inch deep.
To sow your seeds, drop them into your furrow 2-3 inches apart. By sowing your
sweet peas at this spacing, you are more likely to get a full bed of plants
without gaps. Later, after your seeds have sprouted, you will thin them to their
After sowing, cover
your seeds by pulling soil over your furrow. Remember that you want your seeds
to be 1 deep, so move just enough soil to fill in your trench without creating a
mound over the seeds.
water your covered seeds. Use a watering can or hose with an attachment that
diffuses the water so that it sprinkles like a gentle rain--this will prevent
the water from washing away the soil.
Tall sweet peas need a well-anchored support to climb up. Erect one now so that
it will be in place as soon as your seedlings are ready to start climbing.
It is critical to protect your sweet pea seedlings from birds, snails and
slugs. This should be done right after sowing your seed, otherwise these common
predators may find your sprouts and eat them before you even know they are up!
For birds, use netting. We make our own support hoops from flexible, black
plastic irrigation tubing, commonly called polytube, and available at most
garden centers. Cut it in lengths appropriate for the width of your garden beds.
Push the ends of the cut tubing into the soil to form arches over your sweet pea
bed. Drape the bird netting over these arches and secure all edges, making sure
there are no openings. Remove the netting before your sweet peas get tall enough
to attach themselves to it.
For snails and slugs, we like the product Sluggo because it is non-toxic to
humans, pets and wildlife.
your seedlings have 3-4 pairs of leaves, you can pinch or cut off the top of the
seedling, leaving 2-3 pairs of leaves. You should make your cut just above a
pair of leaves. Pinching gives you a fuller plant by promoting lateral
This is also the time to thin your sweet peas to their final spacing of 5-6
apart. Many gardeners find the task of pulling out extra plants difficult after
having nurtured them to this point, but proper spacing between plants is
critical for the health of your mature sweet peas. It improves air circulation
to help prevent disease and gives the roots of individual plants enough space to
forage for water and nutrients.
As your plants get taller and start to climb, you may want to help wayward
branches find their vertical support system. Gently coax them onto your
support--sweet pea branches snap easily.
To keep your sweet pea plants blooming as long
as possible, we recommend deadheading. This means cutting off spent flowers
before they have a chance to divert energy towards making seeds instead of more
flowers. The ideal time to deadhead is just after the bloom has peaked and is
just beginning to fade. Always cut off the entire flower stem.
plant has entirely finished blooming. As you can see, the spent flowers form
seedpods and the plants slow down and then stop blooming altogether. Eventually,
all sweet pea plants come to the end of their flowering life whether you
deadhead or not, but you can prolong the bloom period by cutting off spent
course the whole point of growing sweet peas is the flowers. Don't forget to cut
some and bring them into the house - they make beautiful, sweetly scented
bouquets. And the more flowers you cut, the more the plant will produce!
All of the varieties at Renee's Garden are grown and evaluated in our test
gardens. When we evaluate sweet peas we look at many factor: flower color,
scent, and form; plant vigor and disease resistance; and seed quality.
Sweet Pea Heaven!
Renee evaluating new varieties in our Sweet Pea seed producer's growing field.
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Hill Rd. Felton, CA 95018