Roger Parsons Sweet Peas incorporating Cooltonagh Irish Sweet Peas
Roger Parsons Sweet PeasincorporatingCooltonagh Irish Sweet Peas

How to germinate Sweet Peas from seeds...

Summer-flowering varieties

Sweet Peas are actually very easy to grow. In milder areas, sowing in Autumn (Fall) or Winter produces earlier blooms and longer stems. If Winter is likely to produce frosts below -5°C, better to sow them indoors 6 – 8 weeks before the last hard frost is predicted. Protect your seeds at all times from mice and molluscs. We do not recommend sowing them in the soil, where you intend them to grow, during Spring because plant losses are greater. Spring sowing in containers is better.

How to sow:
* Sow one seed per cell of 5” Rootrainers, without the plastic cover;
* Alternatively, sow 6 to 8 seeds to a 5inch (12.5cm) pot;
* If space is limited sow densely in a seed tray and transplant when big enough to handle;
* Do not use bottom heat, 10C (50F) is the optimum for germination;
* Do not soak or chip the seeds as this may reduce germination; chipping is not needed but should do no harm;
* Use a coarse multi-purpose compost and ensure seeds are covered by no more than 1/4 inch (5mm) of compost after sowing;
* Do not firm the compost but water the pots with a fine rose;
* Place the pots in a cold frame or cold greenhouse and protect against mice and slugs. Germination should take place after two weeks;
* If you are sowing in late Autumn or Winter, your seeds may need a little gentle heat to germinate, e.g. on a kitchen windowsill, but do not use a propagator as it gets too hot;
* To reduce the risk of fungal infection, the compost should be kept slightly dry after the first watering;
* Make sure you move them to a cold greenhouse as soon as the young shoots break the surface of the compost, otherwise your plants will get elongated or ‘leggy’;
* Plants should be given as much light as possible.

How to look after your seedlings:
* Take precautions against slugs, snails, mice and birds;
* The seedlings will tolerate light frost and should be grown as hard as possible. Move them out of the glasshouse as much as possible and especially on sunny Winter days;
* Protect against damaging winds. When hard frosts are forecast, say below -5°C, your seedlings will need some extra protection. Close the frame’s lights and add some lagging (eg newspaper, bubble wrap, sacking etc). If the weather is particularly cold or the frosts prolonged, leave the lagging on to allow the seedlings to thaw slowly;
* Do not nip out the tips of Autumn-sown plants to encourage side shoot formation. This is because side shoots will develop naturally if the plants are grown hard enough and Winter root growth is preferred to shoot growth. For later sowings, when the plant is about 4 inches (10cms) high the growing point can be pinched out such that approximately 4 growing leaves remain.

 

Early-flowering varieties

In frost-free areas, it is possible to sow early-flowering varieties in mid or late Summer to have them flower during Winter. In colder areas, early-flowering varieties should be grown by one of these methods:
* In a heated greenhouse to flower from late Winter onwards by sowing in late Summer;
* In an unheated greenhouse to flower from Spring onwards by sowing in Autumn;
* Outdoors, treating as Summer-flowering varieties to achieve earlier-flowering. 

 

Annual Lathyrus species

The most popular time for sowing annual species is the spring. There are two exceptions to this, L. chloranthus and L. paranensis should both be sown in the autumn as they are later flowering. With other species, autumn sowing may get flowers as early as May, which may be better in climates with very hot summers. Sowing at different times can also achieve a succession of flowering.

* As the size of seed between species is variable it is advisable to sow into a seed tray or half pot;

* Do not soak or chip the seeds as this may reduce germination; chipping is not needed but should do no harm;

* Use free-draining compost and ensure seeds are covered with compost by no more than twice the diameter of the seed.

* Do not firm the compost but water with a fine rose.

* Place the seed trays in a cold frame or cold greenhouse and protect against mice and slugs.

* Plants should be given as much light as possible.

* As soon as seedlings are big enough to handle transplant them to their own small  pot.

* Seedlings will tolerate light frost and should be grown as hard as possible. Move them out of the glasshouse as much as possible and especially on sunny winter days.

* Take precautions against slugs, snails, mice and birds (and cats who may find them to be a tempting bed).

* Protect against damaging winds. When hard frosts are forecast, say below -5˚C, your seedlings will need some extra protection. Close the frame lights and add some lagging (eg. fleece, bubble wrap, sacking etc). If the weather is particularly cold or the frosts prolonged, leave the lagging on to allow the seedlings to thaw slowly.

* Plant out in final position in the spring.

* Plants should be dead headed and watered in dry weather.

 

Perennial Lathyrus species

Perennial species can be grown from seed sown at any time but for best results sow in the spring.  This is to maximize the growing time to make strong plants that can over winter more successfully. Sow as with annual species. Germination can take anything between two weeks and two years, so be patient. Seedlings should be grown on in pots until they are big enough to be planted out in their final position with some support for those that require it. Most species require good drainage at all times, so add some coarse grit to the compost. Each species grows best in the conditions of its natural habitat.

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