From the Desk of Ed Hume: It’s Sweet Pea Time!

February 28, 2011 at 12:00 AM Leave a comment

It’s hard to beat the beauty and the fragrance of sweet peas.  One of the all-time favorites as cut flowers, sweet peas are also wonderful vines to grow on trellises, arbors, or fences.  There is also the semi-dwarf variety “Knee-Hi” that only grows about 2 to 4 feet high.  There is also the dwarf “Little Sweetheart” that only grows about 12 inches high.  Easy to grow, sweet peas are a gardener’s treasure of beauty, fragrance, and enjoyment.

Sweet peas do best when planted in late winter or earliest spring when the weather is a bit on the cool side.  Late February, March, and earliest April is by far the best time to sow the seeds.  It’s best to seed them directly into the garden.  Seedling plants grown indoors then transplanted outdoors go through a bit of a shock and you really do not gain anything by going to all that extra work and expense.

Sow the seeds in a bright light area of the garden.  Full sun or partial sun and shade are ideal planting spots.  Sweet pea seeds are quite hard, so it is a good idea to soak the seeds in water overnight for quicker germination.  Enrich the planting soil with an organic humus like compost and/or processed chicken manure.  Set the seed in a trench 6 inches deep, spacing them about 2 or 3 inches apart, and cover with 1 inch of fine soil.  When the seedling plants are about 2 inches high, thin them to 4 to 6 inches apart.  Then as the vines become established, gradually fill-in the trench.

Some type of trellis support needs to be in place as soon as the tall vining varieties begin to grow.  String or vinyl netting is ideal for the vines to cling to.

The lower growing Knee High sweet peas (2-4’) need limited support.  We simply use twigs and cut branches scattered between the plants for support.  By the way, the fragrant flowers of this variety have the longer flower stems, making them ideal for cutting too.

The lowest growing Little Sweetheart (1-foot) grows in bush form and doesn’t need support of any kind.  Though the flowers are on much shorter stems, they are still suitable for small flower arrangements.  This variety is also quite popular as a container plant.

Be certain to keep the flowers picked to assure flowering for the longest possible time.  Once the spent flowers begin to form seeds, the vines cease flowering.

Our favorite of the tall vining type is “Old Spice,” which is a collection of old fashioned, very fragrant sweet peas.  The flowers are derived from the old Eckford series and are somewhat smaller than modern strains.  However, they have exceptional heat resistance and highly scented flowers.

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Clip of the Week: Planting Sweet Peas Ed’s Podcasts: Vegetable Garden Preparation

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