October is Sweet Pea month ...

Sowing sweet peas in autumn produces bigger and better plants that will bloom earlier, and go on for longer – and the best sweet peas I’ve seen for decades are grown by our very own Ronald Buckman. At the end of October he starts a process that allows him to have the most beautiful flowers I’ve even seen.

It’s well known, horticulturally that sweet peas started in the cooler months put all their energy into a rigorous root system to sustain them over the winter, resulting in strong, stocky plants when they come to be planted in their final positions in mid spring. Ron improves on this system by having developed his own germination tricks that seem to guarantee huge and perfect blooms. Here are his secrets …


1. Dig a trench one foot deep and wide and fill it with your own compost or farmyard manure – let it ‘mellow’ over the winter and you’ve got the perfect home for your sweet peas come spring

2. Choose the best possible seeds, Ron prefers to go to garden shows where he can see the flowers the seeds will produce, not to rely on catalogue descriptions. Sadly, many specialist sweet pea suppliers have gone out of business, but you can still shop around for good varieties if you put in some effort.

3. Plant seeds in a tray filled with moist peat. Lay the seeds on top and press them down, don’t sprinkle peat over them. Cover with glass and then newspaper. After three days, many will have shoots, and those can be put in modules in compost, one shooting seed to each module.

4. Keep the rest of the tray covered and as the seedlings appear, lift them out into modules, because they are uncertain generators, you can find it takes several weeks for all the seedlings to appear, but this doesn’t seem to affect their flowering time or rate.

5. Pinch the tops when there are two or three true leaves to ensure you get a stocky, flower-filled plant.

6. In spring, plant your sweet peas, each plant to an individual cane, in your trench. Take off all the flowers until they are three feet tall, then at three feet, remove the plant from the cane, lay it along the ground and bring it up the next cane! For show quality sweet peas you need four blossoms on each stem, and that means pinching out all the side tendrils … but just look at those flowers, it’s got to be worth it, to have sweet peas like Ron’s!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Monday, October 8, 2007

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