The Sweet Smell of Sweet Peas
I don’t think there is another flower that evokes so much nostalgia as sweet peas do.
I remember a very loving granddaddy who planted them for me in a hollowed-out log planter in the driveway of my Grandparent’s home. Sweet peas tend to prefer cool, moist Spring weather, but with a little preparation and some down right coaxing it is possible to grow them in warm, dry climates like Eastern Washington.
First, the seeds require a period of cold vernalization, which means, they need a period of cold temperatures to make them “think” they have been thru winter. I store my seeds in the freezer year-round. It is also possible to place the seeds between layers of damp paper towels and store in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
The seeds need to be soaked in water for 24 hours to loosen the seed coat and improve germination. This step makes them “think” they have been thru a wet Spring. It’s the ultimate fake out really.
We start planting during January-February with the intention of getting them transplanted in the field in March. Seeds are planted in 72-cell, DEEP trays buried 1/4”-1/2”. It is important to plant them in deep trays because they have a taproot that doesn’t like to be disturbed during transplanting. Darkness is required for germination so make sure the seed is completely covered. Sweet peas are a cold-hardy annual so they can handle cool temperatures in early spring and light frost.
We train them to climb Hortonova trellis. This is the hardest part but once they latch onto the netting they are good to go. By May the peas are beginning to bloom. One of the biggest challenges we have in Eastern Washington is high winds. Sweet peas are very resentful of wind which can cause shorter stem length and stockier plants. We put up windbreak fabric to minimize the gusts and keep the stems as long as possible.
There are early, mid, and late season varieties so planting a combination will extend the season. Because our summers get very hot....very quickly, I tend to plant more early and mid-season varieties. Some of our favorite sources for sweet pea seeds with long stems are Johnny’s Seed Company, Floret, and Geo Seeds.
Sweet Peas make the prettiest spring bouquets and we love growing them on the farm. Try them for yourself!