Sweet peas are great plants to grow in your garden, as floriferous accents in borders or as gloriously scented sentinels in pots. They love a sunny position that is sheltered from the wind, in moisture-retentive, free-draining soil with plenty of humus. The key to ensuring a long flowering season with strong flowers is to providing consistent growing conditions. Regular watering and feeding provides a ready supply of moisture and nutrients to keep plants healthy and repeat flowering. Once they get stressed by adverse conditions, such as drought or waterlogging, they begin to decline and are then difficult to revitalise.
Ground that has been enriched with well-rotted manure or garden compost provides a steady supply of nutrients throughout the season, improving drainage, but also helping retain moisture during drier times. Sweet peas in containers require particular care as they are more susceptible to drying out and losing nutrients. They are however well worth the extra effort to produce moveable displays that are not bound by the soil conditions of a garden. Use big containers that provide plenty of root space and apply liquid seaweed feed as a root drench at fortnightly intervals to keep plants flourishing. Plants grown in the ground also benefit from regular seaweed feed.
When growing conditions are good, plants grow strongly and are resilient to pest and disease attack. For the best results, grow a wide variety of plants alongside your peas and eliminating the use of pesticides to encourage natural predators, such as ladybirds and hoverflies, to keep aphids in check.
Another key component to successful growing is providing sturdy supports that plants can cling or be trained to as they climb and twine their way upwards. Cordon growing requires tall, straight canes that the main stem of the pea can be tied to as tendrils and side shoots are removed and the leader progresses. Alternatively, plants can be left to naturally scramble up and over wire mesh, netting, ornate metal supports or wigwams made from branches. Whichever type of support or training method, ensure that structures are well secured and that they are of ample height for the plants to romp away on.
Sweet pea plants being annuals have one goal in their short lives and that is to reproduce. In order to achieve this, they produce flowers, which once pollinated, produce seed. If left to their own devices, sweet peas will flower prolifically, produce seed and die, having successfully completed their goal. By cutting flowers from the plants for posies and bouquets, we are inhibiting the production of seed, which encourages the plants to continue flowering. Having your own cut flowers is wonderful and the more you cut, the more they continue to flower. Don’t worry if you miss a round of cutting and pods begin to develop, these can be snipped off to stop the plants producing seed.
Hopefully these useful tips keep your sweet peas flowering right through to the first frosts of autumn.