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Sweet Peas - Darren Everest

Having grown sweet peas from his early teens our speaker Darren Everest was very experienced and accomplished. He had exhibited his sweet peas at many shows over the years at which he had gained a succession of awards. So he was well placed to explain how to get the best results from a plant which he described as “temperamental and frustrating to grow”. Nevertheless he provided lots of practical advice to enable members to succeed in growing these beautiful and highly scented flowers from seed.

To achieve early flowering the seeds are best sown from mid October onwards up to mid December. They need sowing in a multi-purpose compost about a quarter inch deep in seed trays kept in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame. Whilst some growers recommend pre-soaking the seed this is not necessary but germination can be assisted by placing the trays in a propagator with some bottom heat for 10 days. Seed trays should be protected from mice which will feast on sweet pea seeds.

Once the plants are about 2 inches tall they should be pricked out into pots with 5 plants per pot and have their root tips removed to encourage lateral roots to form. After they have formed two pairs of leaves the growing tips should be removed to encourage them to produce side shoots from the base.

Sweet peas need lots of nourishment so before planting them out in March, the ground should ideally be enriched with farm-yard manure or fish, blood and bone-meal. They should be provided with 7 feet canes to which they are tied as they grow. The weakest side shoot should be removed 2-3 weeks after planting out and the tendrils removed every 3 days. The side shoots should also be removed except the one nearest the top which serves as a spare in the event of the leading shoot getting damaged.

Darren’s presentation concluded with the sale of a big selection of sweet pea plants for members to grow and put his advice into practice.


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