Growing the best sweet peas

Article from Andy McIndoe for Vitax Garden World

Sweet Peas 2

Of all the annuals grown in gardens, sweet peas are the most enduringly popular. Even if you do not grow any other flowers from seed, chances are you will have tried sweet peas at some time. Their soft, gently waved sweetly scented blooms are the delight of the summer garden, a pleasure to gather regularly and bring the best of the garden into the house. You could buy young plants in spring, but if you want the best results you should grow your own from seed, and start early. This produces the best plants, earlier blooms and a long growing season.

The success of sweet peas in your garden depends on what goes on below the ground: good soil preparation and strong root systems. Sweet peas produce long, tap roots which want to go deep. If the seed is sown in normal cell trays the roots are restricted and form tight mats in the bottom of the cells. These can fail to develop further when the plants are in the ground. Sowing fresh, quality seeds individually in Vitax Grow Tubes allows the roots to grow down unrestricted. This growth continues unchecked when the plants are moved to the open ground. 

Strong root systems that go deep into the soil are essential for success. The plants need plenty of water during flower formation, otherwise bud drop results. They also need ready access to nutrients for growth and flower formation. When you think about it that root system has to support a lot of stem and leaf as well as blooms.

Sweet peas are hardy plants that can withstand cold and frost. If you grow strong plants in the autumn they can continue to develop roots over winter and are all ready to grow furiously the following spring, then they start to flower earlier. 

If possible soak the seeds for a few hours before you sow them. Stand Vitax Grow Tubes in a seed tray or small gravel tray and fill them with Vitax Seed and potting Compost firm gently with your finger or a dibber. Now sow one or two seeds 1 cm deep in each and water thoroughly. Ideally keep them in a cool greenhouse or cold frame, or start them on the windowsill of an unheated room, then move them out to a frame once germinated. 

Sweet pea plants produce an initial shoot which grows to a few centimetres. A strong bud develops at the base of this shoot which then develops into the strong leading shoot. Pinch out the top of this when a few centimetres high to encourage branching. 

Keep an eye on watering right through the winter months. In spring the young plants will benefit from a weak feed. Vitax Q4 soluble plant food is ideal for this. Just mix a little into a can of water and apply weekly.

Sweet peas can be planted out on well prepared ground from the end of March. Protect the plants from slugs and pigeons. Water regularly in dry weather and feed with Vitax Q4 soluble plant food every week. You should be cutting your first fragrant blooms by early summer. 

Andy McIndoe 

For more great advice and to order Grow Tubes, please visit Vitax Garden World.