It’s a pretty miserable day here with frequent heavy showers, looming dark clouds that mean I have to put the light on and it felt raw when I made the quick dash to put out the recycling bin . I often feel frustrated at this time of year, raring to go but hindered by the weather and knowing if I jump the gun the plants will only suffer. However, to cheer myself up I decided to sow the first seeds of 2012 and it was Sweet peas that had the honour. Sweet peas are hardy so you can sow them anytime between late October and April for a bountiful crop that summer. I have sown them at a variety of times before but have never had much success with sowing them in late autumn. Although they are hardy they do need some protection over winter and I have found that they succumb to the damp. Late winter and early spring sowings do very well from my experience and so I don’t bother sowing them any earlier.
The benefit of sowing Sweet peas earlier is that they establish a deep root system that helps the plants cope with any dry spells and they are much less prone to mildew. I don’t like to sow my sweet peas directly into the ground though. The soil will probably be cold and wet, possibly frozen or covered in snow. They are also at most risk from being nobbled by slugs or mice at this early stage. Instead I sow mine indoors into really tall pots such as the pots in which Clematis are planted. You can buy root-trainers but I find these a bit fiddly. I’ve also tried sowing into loo rolls but they do get really mouldy fairly quickly and start to smell. It’s not very appealing cultivating all that mould growth on my kitchen windowsill. None of these give the plants a really long root run either. I sow 5-6 seeds per pot and they can stay in these pots until I plant them out into the soil. I don’t bother soaking or chitting my Sweet peas and I haven’t had any problems with germination. Today I sowed 2 varieties – ‘Mrs. Collier’, a highly fragrant white variety and ‘Just Jenny’ a dark midnight purpley-blue with a good scent.
I filled the pots with compost at the weekend and then put the pots in the kitchen next to a radiator. I know this might sound weird but last year when I went to sow my seeds I discovered that the compost had been frozen. It was so cold that no seed would have been encouraged to germinate in it. Even with the mild winter we’ve had so far my compost has been sat in the shed and felt quite cold when I filled the pots. I always use tepid water when watering my compost. If I was a seed I wouldn’t be happy sat in cold, wet compost. And that’s it, for now. These will go into a coldframe some time in March when I will sow another batch so I have a good supply of flowers right through the summer.