Sweet peas are the epitome of spring. The flowers have a tantalizing, honey-like fragrance that wafts through the garden. On my way to a meeting today, I was forced to walk right by a patch without stopping and felt quite morose. I made a point to snap photos on the way back, and to inhale a big gulp of yummy-scented air (and “borrow” a flower to brighten up the rest of my day).
Unfortunately, by the time you admire sweet peas and want some for you garden, it’s too late! Do not despair-but DO get out your calendar and make a note to plant seeds (or purchase 6 packs) in late August-early October.
After planting, the seeds sprout, grow a few inches tall, and then kind of hang out during the winter. In spring, they quickly shoot up and bloom. Sweet peas believe in second chances, so if you forgot to plant them in fall, you’ll have another chance to plant them in early spring from either seed or 6 pack.
Sweet pea seeds have a reputation for so-so rates of germination. For the very best germination rate, “nick” the seed using a nail clipper. Do this carefully, your goal is not to make a hole in the seed, but rather to pierce through the seed coat (outer covering of the seed). This will speed up the rate of germination which is normally 10-28 days (depending upon weather). Some people like to soak the seeds, so if you use that method, do not soak for more than 48 hours. After planting, keep the soil moist. Renee Shepherd of Renee’s Garden Seeds prefers the “nicking” method.
Sweet peas are annual plants, which means they last for less than one year. The do best in cool weather. Since sweet peas only grow between fall and early summer, you’ll want to plant another annual in the same spot to have beautiful flowers year round! Lilac and scarlet runner beans can be planted May-June and will grow from late spring until fall. Runner beans do well in warm weather. The flowers are sweetly scented, just like sweet peas. Hummingbirds go crazy for them, so do butterflies, bees and people. Happy Planting!