Having kept a beady eye on the weather for a week or two, this week we finally decided the time was right to plant out the sweet peas. One of the stalwarts of the traditional cottage garden, to cut flower growers they truly are the gift that keeps on giving, producing numerous fragrant and beautiful blooms over a long season – provided that you keep on top of picking them. Any blooms left unpicked will quickly develop seed pods and then you can wave goodbye to your blooms. Of course, towards the end of the season, this is a positive boon as you can save the seeds to sow next year’s crop.
We have experimented with growing up sweet peas up wigwams and trellis as well as in the traditional criss cross of poles, as we are doing this year and varied the numbers of plants scrambling up each pole. This year we are sticking to one healthy plant only per pole to see if this, along with a rigorous system of tying the plants in regularly will give us longer and straighter stems.
On the whole, sweet peas are easy to grow, provided that you put in a little bit of time to maintaining them once they are growing, tying the plants in and untying and sliding the plants down the poles once they have reached the top to encourage fresh top growth and stronger healthier blooms. The ‘spent’ growth at the bottom of the pole provides ground cover to suppress the weeds. You can also pinch out side shoots to promote more flowers – although this may result in poorer quality blooms.
They are hungry feeders so feed them regularly throughout their growing and blooming season with a well-balanced fertilizer and try to keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Besides mildew, sweet peas are susceptible to aphids when they’re blooming. but t a strong spray of water usually deals with the aphids.
Young Blooms will be using them in summer bouquets and in wedding displays but you’ll also find bunches for sale at Hartley Farm Shop. Rarely seen in florists shops or supermarket flower buckets they are a firm favourite for a kitchen table or bedside posy.