Sweet Pea Culture
by Bernard Jones
Prepare the ground in Autumn
And sprinkle lime about,
Give the soil time to settle
Before you plant them out
The trenches should be three feet deep
And also two feet wide
With bone-meal and farm manure
Mixed with soil inside.
You'll find that mid September
Is the proper time to start,
Thin out the plants until they stand
Just half a foot apart.
Be careful how you drain the soil
Put sand along each row...
But, Gladys, she just shoves them in,
And golly how they grow!!
Bernard Jones is the British author of the classic reference book, Sweet Peas, now hard to find except in libraries. Additional advice on growing Sweet Peas can be found in abundance on the web at: Fragrantgarden.com.
Knowing how to grow sweet peas is important for success with these fragrant beauties. They prefer long, cool springs and summers to grow enormous flowers and luxuriant 9' plants. Yes, they will grow, as Gladys says, if you just poke them into the soil and wait. However, the best results are obtained by preparing the soil well by mixing in compost and manure. Sweet peas require alkaline conditions, so sprinkle enough lime on the soil to give it a snow-dusted appearance. If you take the time to nick the hard shell of each pea opposite its eye, you'll greatly improve germination. You can also soak them for 24 hours before planting. This will enable them to absorb moisture and sprout quickly. Protect freshly sown seeds from mice and new sprouts from slugs. Once up and growing they like moisture - one inch a week, with a good soaking, is best.
Plant at OVF in August through October for early spring bloom, November to January for late spring bloom.
Experience has shown that although we have cool springs we do have unseasonable hot spells in March, so the earlier the better for sweet peas at OVF.
Important tip on growing sweet peas in our peculiar winter climate with its scorching, December, Santa Ana winds: Don't let the soil dry out during the germination period!!