I remember both my Grandmothers growing sweet peas when I was a child. They're pretty, strongly fragranced and prolific. Their charm is etched in my memory along with custard tarts, knitted socks and morning visits to refill the bird feeder. Leading up to my Grandmother's birthday month, I decided to grow sweet peas myself this year.
There's nothing like a posy of cut flowers to pull the eye away from the dust and clutter (thanks to my Mum for that bit of domestic wisdom!). I often used to buy cut flowers for our home but I've been resisting bought cut flowers for a while now. If you're interested have a read here about flower miles and fumigation. Being that it is also Plastic Free July I'm avoiding bought cut flowers as they are often wrapped in plastic. So given my self imposed ban from buying flowers I have to get serious about growing my own. One of my garden goals this year is to grow enough flowering plants in our garden to keep a vase full inside, while also leaving enough for my pollinator friends outside.
🌱 St Patrick’s Day, March 17, is the traditional date for sowing sweet peas in many parts of Australia. There is a tradition that sweet peas should be sown before sunrise on St Patricks day to obtain the largest and most fragrant blooms, not sure of the science behind it, but it's a nice way of remembering the timing. I was a little late sowing mine and they still seem to be going ok. They grow and flower through winter and the flowers are picked in spring. *For cooler climates (like Tassie and southern states) it may be better to sow in Spring and grow through late Spring/early Summer.
🌱 Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing. This softens the seed coat and speeds up the sprouting process.
🌱 Grow sweet peas in a sunny spot with good drainage.
🌱 Sweet peas are heavy feeders and require a little extra pampering to produce abundantly. Prepare planting beds or pots by applying bone meal, a thick layer of compost or well-rotted manure, and a generous dose of natural fertiliser. Mix these ingredients deeply into the soil.
🌱 Water the soil well the day before planting and sow into a moist bed. Try to avoid watering again until after the seedlings have emerged. Initially water plants lightly so that they develop strong deep tap roots then increase watering once your sweet peas have reached a height of 15-20cm.
🌱 Sweet peas are climbing plants growing around 2 metres so you'll need to provide them with something to climb on. If you're really caring you may like to poke in some small twigs as the seedlings appear, that will help guide them to the climbing support. Gently tie them to your trellis when they are big enough to reach it.
For the longest vase life, pick when there are at least two unopened flowers at the tip of a stem. To prolong blooming, it's important that you keep plants from setting seed, so be sure to harvest and deadhead the flowers frequently.
To make sweet peas even more likeable is the fact that it’s a member of the legume family, so the plants are nitrogen fixers. This means that, once the flowering’s finished, it’s a good idea to dig the plants into the soil where they’ll add extra goodness. Best smelling green manure ever!