Growing Sweetpeas

It’s February and still cold and far too early to start most crops, but sweetpeas are very cold hardy. Sweetpeas make lovely cut flowers will attract pollinators to your growing area. They also like a longer growing season; If you are itching to get going then Sweetpeas are your crop to get that fix!

Sweet pea (Lathyrusodoratus) are part of the legume family with peas and beans, but be aware they are not edible; containing highly toxic chemicals which can affect the nervous system. Interestingly the sweet pea, along with the edible pea, has been used by scientists to study genetics as they can self-pollinate and their traits are easily observable, like colour and flower shape. These traits also mean that many different varieties of sweet pea have been bred and are available for growing on your plot. Sweetpeas come in a range of colours and have a beautiful scent.

Growing Sweet peas
Sweet peas are easy to grow from seed, but they require quite an early start. They can be started around November in a coldframe or greenhouse and will overwinter without heat. This will give earlier blooms, however starting in a similar fashion in Feburary works well too.

Some growers recommend using a sharp knife to ‘chip’ the outer coating of the seed before germination. I have never found any need to do this. 3cm pots, toilet roll in-ner tubes or root trainers work well.

These plants are climbers and grow well on a wig-wam or A frame of canes in a sunny position. Plant individual plants at least 8 inches apart. They can be grown as cordons where they are trained as a single-stem up an individual cane. Any side shoots are removed. This can divert energy into flower production. Alternatively you can just let the plants scramble. A good tip is to tie plants in well as keeping them growing upwards means you have a better chance of blooms with a nice straight stem. Pick the flowers regularly—at least weekly—once seeds start to set the plants will stop producing flowers.

This week we will be sowing Sweetpeas. For 2020 we will be growing:

  • Royal Family Mix – mixed colour
  • Mollie Rilestone – pink & Cream
  • Route 66 – pink & White
  • Lipstick – pink
  • Cream Southbourne – cream
  • Fragrantissima – mixed colour, high scent
  • Little Red Riding Hood – Red and white
  • Senator – mottled burgundy & white
  • Frances Kate – mottled violet and white