Expert Advice on Growing Sweet Peas
Growing Sweet Peas
These, one of the most popular, grown for both cutting and decoration, are best given a position by themselves.
Sweetare usually grown in a well prepared trench which can be taken out in readiness during winter. It is best to grow two rows of plants to the trench if each plant is to be staked separately (this is the best method if quality blooms are required), so the trench will need to be 15 to 18 ins. wide. Dig out the to the depth of the spade and fork up the base to the full depth of the fork. Next, place a 4 to 6 in. layer of on top of this forked soil and mix it in with the loose soil. Fill in half the remaining space in the trench with the soil dug out, place a further layer of compost on this and, again, fork this in as well.
The finished level will be higher than the surrounding soil but will sink slightly over winter. A shallow depression will be needed for planting so some soil may need to be removed.
Prior to planting in early April, scatter 4 ozs. of bone meal and 4 ozs. of wood ash, over the trench area, and rake this in so that it is mixed with the top 4 or 5 ins. of trench. When this is done sprinkle hydrated lime over the planting area at 2 ozs. to each square yard. To get early flowers of extra good quality sow seeds in 3in. pots in cold frames in October.
Guard against mice, which may eat the seeds readily. Give as much ventilation as possible after germination, and water only moderately. A good seed-sowing compost is 3 parts loam, 1 part sieved compost and 1 part coarse sand. Make sure the pots are well “crocked”, as good drainage is important for sweet peas both in the propagation stages and later.
Stop the plants, that is take the growing point out, when they are about 5ins. high. This encourages strong “breaks” or side shoots which, later, should be reduced to leave the best one.
If the plants are to be supported by pea sticks, i.e. not tied into canes and grown on a single stem, the number of growths (shoots) per plant can be two or three. More flowers will be obtained this way but they will be of smaller size.
For planting from pots, knock out the plant and ball of soil by tapping the inverted pot on something solid (supporting the plant between the fingers), and remove the crocks. Make a hole with the trowel slightly larger than the ball of soil but of the same depth or only very slightly deeper. Set the ball of soil in position, firm the surrounding soil to it, and water in. If planting two rows in the trench, these should be Bins. apart. The plants can be 6 ins. apart. Plant firmly and water in.
Support the plants with short twiggy growths in the early stages if canes are not used. This will also give some protection from cold winds. To get the very best results, tie the plants to 6, 7 or 8 ft canes and secure them to these supports regularly with fillis string, raffia, wire rings or twist ties, all of which can be bought in most garden sundries shops.
If you have no canes, strings can be used but these will need to be stretched tightly to a wire 6 ft. from ground level. This means that stout posts will be needed at each end of the row to take the wire. Posts and wire will be needed if canes are employed as supports.
If pea sticks are used, hazel wood is best but any well-branched “twiggy” material, 6 ft. high if possible, can be utilised. Set the sticks firmly in position, sharpening the ends first if they are rather thick.
Where the plants are tied to canes, tie them in regularly, remove the tendrils and take out the side shoots when small. Any shoots that arise from the base of the main stem, should also be removed when small.
During the early stages of growth, sweet peas will benefit from a mulch of lawn mowings, especially during May and June if the weather is warm, a tin. layer being sufficient to help conserve moisture. Water the plants once a week with liquid manure for best quality flowers and, if very hot spells occur, give a good soaking with clear water if the plants flag.
During the evening of hot days, damp the foliage with clean water, using a rosed can or a hose with the end pinched between thumb and finger. This will be of great benefit and will also help to prevent bud drop.
Varieties – There are very many sweet pea varieties and it is difficult to reduce them to, say 12 outstanding sorts. The following can, however, be relied upon to give pleasure and a wide variety of colour.
Air Warden, orange, cerise; Cream Gigantic; Princess Elizabeth, salmon; Christina, rose; Elizabeth Taylor, mauve; Carlotta, carmine; Mrs. R. Bolton, rose pink; Red Velvet, deep crimson; Valerie, white; Stylish, blue; Classic, purple, and Gertrude Tingay, lavender.
General Points for Growing Sweet Peas
There is a wide range of bulbs and corms that may be grown out of doors, some in beds for spring flowering (such as, narcissi and ), some as edging plants (like crocus), and some in groups in mixed or other borders (like ). Of the many types available, the following are amongst the most popular and the most easily grown. Where applicable, some suitable and easily grown varieties are given in each case.
Bulbs should be planted in September and can be spaced 6 ins. apart and 4 ins. deep. Well dug soil is needed, and a 2 in. dressing of compost should be forked into the top 4 ins. of soil prior to planting. An application of wood ashes at 4 ozs. to the square yard will also be of benefit.