Tout Sweet

Get ready to start sowing sweet pea seeds. It may seem early, but December and January are good months for getting them off to a healthy start. Sweet peas offer so much – exquisite scent, amazing colour, and when the light shines through them, a miniature stained glass window. How can anyone not love them? Growing tips below…

I use the growing method recommended by Sarah Raven, additionally soaking seeds the night before sowing. Soak the seeds overnight and then plant in a rootrainer cell filled to about an inch with potting compost, two to a cell, filling over the seeds with additional compost. Water with a fine spray and keep the compost damp, but not waterlogged. Leave in a cool, light place such as a cold frame or potting shed. When they reach two or three inches tall, pinch out the tips to encourage a bushier plant. Pot on when you see roots emerging from the bottom of the rootrainer and plant out in mid-March in enriched soil, always keeping the two seedlings as a clump and without breaking apart the roots. Give them plenty of support, training them up a frame or teepee. Tie in gently. Once flowering, the more you pick the more they flower. Whether you go for colour or scent or both, Matucana and sweet pea Prince Edward of York are especially rewarding to grow. Painted Lady adds fascination as its colour changes blushingly as it matures… But there are endless varieties to suit any taste or colour scheme and sweet peas are indispensible as scented flowers for enjoying indoors. Arguably the highlight of the summer cutting garden… but how to choose only one variety? Impossible, pick a bunch.

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