Growing sweet peas
Sweet peas are one of life's little joys, their scent, colour and ability to keep flowering never cease to amaze. For me they even resurrect happy memories of my grandparents growing their own in the years gone past.
Sweet peas are thankfully easy to grow. All you need is the seed, some good soil or compost, water and a sunny spot to put them in.
Sweet pea seeds are large enough for a toddler to sow and even more fun for them is to build a wigwam support for the sweet peas to grow up!
If you sowed some last autumn it is almost time to plant them out now but watch out for a cold spell as you'll need to loosely wrap them up with fleece or some newspaper to protect them.
If not, don't worry now is perfect to sow some initially or even make a second sowing.
Sweet peas like getting their roots down deep so use a deepish pot, root trainer or even use an old cardboard loo roll.
Fill to just below the top with soil, sow 1-2 seeds per loo roll holder or small pot, 1 cm deep, cover with soil and water.
Place them somewhere warm and sunny like a kitchen widow sill and watch them germinate (can take 7-14 days depending on the warmth of the soil so be patient!)
Once the seedlings have germinated put them outside in a cold frame, greenhouse or some where light and sheltered and pinch out the growing tip after 3-4 pairs of leaves have formed. (This will toughen them up and produce more side shoots).
Once your seedlings are 10-14cm high you can plant them out into a large pot or border with lots of new compost to give them a boost. Give the plants a helping hand by tying in the shoots onto the wigwam or support with string on clips and feed every couple of weeks with a tomato feed.
Once the flowers appear it's time to pick pick pick! The more you pick, the more flowers you'll get and don't forget to cut off any seed heads that appear as this will keep them flowering for hopefully many weeks and months!
Water them well roughly once a week with a good dousing or more often when the weather gets hot.
How to make a support:
Supports are essential for sweet peas and really easy to make. They need to be 6-8 feet high so tall bamboo canes or coppiced hazel or willow work well.
A wigwam shape is good if space is limited or you can make a tent shaped support.
Push the canes/poles deep into the soil so they provide a strong support, lean them into the hsape you want and tie them together at the top. Provide some lateral support by wrapping some string around the canes at 1 foot intervals will help the support be more secure and help the plants get a leg up.