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Updated : 21/9/2014

Growing Sweet Peas from seed

Famous for their fragrance and multi-coloured long stemmed flowers, Sweet Peas are always welcome visitors to the spring garden. Sweet peas take a little more effort than other plants but they really are worth it.    Prepare your soil three weeks before planting. For best results, double dig the bed, adding manure, superphosphate, and bonemeal to the soil and a little lime on top.

One of the easiest ways of getting sweetpeas going quickly is to soak them in water for 24 hours before planting or germinating. You can treat them in a number of ways after soaking.
Put the seeds under cotton wool like you did at school. Use as many as you need to for the length of your trench or trellis, plus a few more in case of bad seeds. Cover with cotton wool, water and leave it in a warm place. Check daily. When you see the little radicles growing out, you know it's time for the next step.

Method 1

Now you could do it the conventional way by putting the germinating seeds (singularly) into a 10cm pot. Fill the pot with compost; put the swollen seed in the centre, cover lightly, firm down, and water. When the seedlings are large enough, you can plant them out into the garden, about 15cm apart.

Method 2

Here is new way you might like to try which could be fun for the kids. Take cardboard toilet roll core, place it on a firm flat surface, and fill with compost. Make sure your compost is of the right consistency - not too damp and not too dry. Push the compost in quite tightly and compact in with your thumb. Turn it around and put your seed in the centre. Cover with a little more compost and press down.  Repeat until you have a sufficient number.

Place the cores on a solid flat surface where you could water and treat them as though the seeds were growing in a pot. Inspect them daily and when you see the first sign of a root coming out the bottom you would take the whole core to the bed and plant it. The cardboard core would eventually disintegrate.

Method 3

You could also plant your germinated seed straight from the cotton wool and into the soil about 15cm apart. To plant the seed, dig out a little hole and refill so that the soil is loose. Plant your seed with the radicle facing down, cover lightly, press down firmly, and water.

Birds love eating baby Sweet peas, so until they are about 15 to 20cm high, cover them with a protective bird netting. Be sure to remove the netting once they have reached this height to prevent them becoming tangled.
The climbing variety must be supported as they grow, and there are a number of ways of doing this. Wire netting is ideal, plastic woven nets are available from nurseries, as are a wide variety of trellis. Although they will cling to the support by themselves, longer shoots will sometimes come loose and these should be tied. Sweet peas do not like growing flat against a wall so leave a space of at least 10cm between the net and the wall.
The dwarf variety will also benefit from a little support. A simple method is to cut some dead twiggy branches from a tree and push these into the ground next to the seedlings. The Sweet peas will cling to the branches and give you a wonderful display.
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