Monty Don shares how to sow sweet peas this month for ‘bigger’ plants

Gardeners’ World: Monty Don on sweet peas

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Sweet peas are delicate plants that are easy to grow and add both colour and interest to gardens. Annual sweet peas smell sweet and will most flower in the summer months. Perennial sweet peas don’t need sowing every year but lack that classic “sweet” scent. Sweet peas like a sunny spot with its of space for the plant to either climb or become a bush. Some can cope with dappled sunlight.

Gardeners’ World lead host Monty Don said gardeners should sow sweet peas in October so the plant develops “bigger plants” and a “stronger root system”.

He said in a post on his blog: “By sowing sweet peas in October you will have bigger plants with a stronger root system that should give flowers next spring earlier and last longer.

“But the disadvantage is that these young plants will need storing and some protection over winter if the weather is bad.

“So I sow some now and another batch in February and spread the risk. I sow three seeds in a three-inch pot although root-trainers also do the job very well.

“Use a good potting rather than seed compost. Put them to germinate on a windowsill or greenhouse and once the first leaves have grown, place outside in a cold frame or protected spot.

“They only need protection from hard frosts, mice and becoming sodden, so do not provide any extra heat. They will be ready to plant out in April.”

If the seeds are sown indoors, they need to be hardened off for 10-14 days before being planted outside to prevent them going into shock from the cold.

Before planting, prepare the soil by adding garden compost or manure. General purpose fertiliser can also be added such as blood, fish and bone.

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Sweet peas can also be sown directly into the ground in April and May when the weather is warmer. However, the plant’s roots won’t be able as well-established compared to those sown now.

Many people recommend soaking sweet pea seeds overnight before sowing them to help them germinate.

But this should only be done for varieties that have a particularly hard outer shell. Some experts also suggest soaking the seeds can also lead to plants being weaker. Most sweet peas will germinate perfectly well without being soaked first.

Bury sweet pea seeds at a depth of one inch into a container or bed and ensure there are two to three inches between each seed.

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Two to four sweet pea seeds can be added to each hole. Adding just one could leave gardeners without any. On average, sweet peas only have a 60 to 80 percent germination rate.

To save money on containers, gardeners can use cardboard rolls, toilet or kitchen roll holders to sow sweet peas.

The cardboard rolls need to be filled with compost. Push the compost into the rolls but ensure it’s not too compact.

Put the cardboard rolls into a seed tray or container with some drainage holes so they don’t end up sitting in water.

Place the seeds on top of the compost of each cardboard roll before pushing them own into the compost.

Lightly cover the top with a bit more compost and gently wear each roll while being careful not to saturate the compost.

If there is one, cover the tray with a propagator lid and put the tray either on a bright window sill, in a frost-free porch or in a greenhouse.

Using a propagator with an electric base will help the seeds germinate more quickly but this is not essential.

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