Sowing Sweet peas in Autumn

These are perhaps my favourite flowers of all: delicate, abundant and beautifully scented and not easily bought from a high street florist. I first grew these in a bucket in our London backyard and have grown them with different degrees of success in every garden, patch and allotment since. The strongest scented sweet peas are a main stay of the still developing plot.

This year, reading that sweetpeas come true from seed, I have collected my own plot-gathered sweetpea seeds to sell. Below is some advice about how to start them off with links to advice from expert growers.

Close up on a jar of Homesown sweetpeas

What I know so far about growing sweetpeas has been gathered over the years from reading books and blogs and listening to experts like my flower growing friend who planned meticulously to produce sweet peas for her daughter’s August wedding, planting seeds at different times of the year. What I have learned from experience is that growing sweetpeas takes time and more regular attention than most other flowers. But they are worth it. A vigorous climbing plant, they need solid supports and then tying in and feeding/watering and very regular cutting. Neglect them in their prime and they will soon go over.

Sweepea plants last Spring at the plot
Sweepea plants clambering up supports last Summer at the plot

It is almost November and now is a fine time to start sowing seed which you can continue until March. Below is a link to a detailed and informative blog which painstakingly records the progress of  sweetpeas sown at different times. The hard work put into this is generously helpful. Take a look at:

My first sowings last year were of Sarah Raven seeds using her method of poking two seeds around an inch down into root trainer cells. Click link above for her detailed advice.  This method encourages long and healthy roots. With a little bottom heat from the heated propagator in the shed,  most of these seeds soon germinated and were given stern treatment by being moved outside. They were then tested in the wind and rain without any protection. As soon as the really cold weather came, they were put in an unheated cold frame and on rare occasions covered in fleece. Sweet peas are tougher than you think and can tolerate down to -5.

This month, I am going to try another method described by Matthewman’s Sweetpeas . (Again, click link to read advice in detail). This involves planting around 20 seeds into a small pot, again one inch deep and then pricking them out and potting them – two into a separate cornerseach small pot before their first leaves unfurl. This is appealing in terms of time saved initially and is also a new approach to me and it will be interesting to see how it works. Helpful advice and healthy seeds are also supplied by Roger Parsons, a true expert.

Young sweetpea plant

On a wind whirling day, it is cheering to think about the loveliness, scent and colour being set in motion for early next Summer.