Top tips for sowing sweet peas

It's early February and so naturally my mind turns to sowing sweet peas.

We keep the system simple here at Common Farm Flowers.

We sow three crops of sweet peas per year, 96 seeds per crop, always in root trainers.

We sow them indoors and keep them indoors until they're well germinated so that the marauding mouse (of which there are plenty in the polytunnels and greenhouses,) don't eat them... 

When they're well germinated, up to having two sets of true leaves, we pinch them back to those two sets of true leaves so that they send out side shoots - I like to have lots of sweet pea shoots for my floristry as well as the flowers.

We don't soak the seed (I used to - but discovered that if I didn't soak the seed they simply take two more days to germinate, and since I'm not in that much of a rush...) or split them open with a paring knife as my mother does while sitting in front of the television in the evening.  We simply pop them into good quality, peat free compost (the compost used here is Sylvagrow,) and water the compost from underneath so that the water works its way right through to the seed.  

Once the seeds are well germinated we'll put them out in a cold greenhouse where they'll wait a month or so until mid march when we'll put them outside in the cold frame to harden them off.  Then these will be planted out (protected by fleece if it's threatening a hard frost,) towards the end of March.  

We already have the bed lined up where they'll be planted.  The bed used to have dahlias in it, but those were all lifted at the end of last season.  Then I sowed the bed with a light sowing of phacelia, which has germinated nicely, and which we'll rotavate into the ground before planting the sweet peas into it.  The phacelia helps break up our thick, clay soil, and feeds it a little, and generally makes a cosy bed for the sweet peas.

These sweet pea seedlings in the picture were sown on 4th October.  Their brothers and sisters were planted into the big polytunnel just before Christmas, where they've been sulking (and getting their roots right down) ever since.  These are the spares which I've potted up to save for our plant sale on 4th May in aid of our local village church of St Stephen's (which has a large hole in its eight hundred year old roof!) 

So our first sweet pea crop should be flowering by the end of April and will flower till the end of June in the poly tunnel before we rip it out.  The second crop, which I sowed today, and which will be planted out outside in the flower field at the end of March, will be flowering from mid June.  I'll then sow a third crop some time in April which will take us through to the end of the autumn.

We always plant our sweet peas in rows growing up pea netting.  That way it's easier to make sure we cut every single flower to stop them going over too quickly by setting new seed, which is reallly what all annuals always want to do.

For a little fillum of the seed sowing process do see our youtube channel where I'll be uploading shortly.  

Our sweet peas will be in our bouquets and posies from the end of April right through the season, their incomparable scent filling the air of all the houses we send them to.