Growing Sweet Peas
Sweet peas are jewels of the garden. While not edible like snow or shelling peas, they are a close relative grown for their large and aromatic blooms. Sweet peas are much like edible peas in cultivation. They like cool weather, plenty of sunlight, and moist rich soil. Grow sweet peas and bring bouquets of fragrant flowers in from the garden all season.
Planting Sweet Peas
If in USDA hardiness zones 7 and above, plant peas as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. They can take a frost, it’s the summer heat that will wilt them. In areas with particularly short growing seasons, start them indoors in planting trays.
Germinating peas can be slightly tough. Soak peas overnight prior to planting to sprout them quicker. Plant 3 inches apart in well-draining soil that has been amended with rich compost. They like alkaline soil, sprinkle some lime over the planting bed in areas that are prone to acidity.
Keep the soil moist. If you can stick your finger into the soil and it feels dry, they need water. Peas will typically begin to brown and die as the summer warms. Because they are a spring flower, watering it usually well compensated by rain.
Caring for Sweet Peas
Thin seedlings to a spacing of 5 inches. When they reach 6 inches tall, you can begin to pinch off the tops to encourage branching, bushiness, and more blooms.
Sweet peas will need a trellis or stake system to climb. Their tendrils will wrap around just about anything, some of the best trellis materials are:
- Garden Stakes
- Wire Fencing
- Wild Branches
Pick flowers from your plants often to encourage them to produce more. Also remove wilting and dead flowerheads. Expect sweet peas to decline when the temperatures reach above 65°F (18°C) regularly.
Applying mulch around the base of the plants, or planting annuals like lettuce with the peas, will shade the soil and keep the roots cooler. Peas love cool roots and sunny tops, they will last longer into the season with their roots in the shade.
Sweet peas are susceptible to powdery mildew. This fungus appears in wet conditions and looks like a white dust all over the foliage. It will eventually wilt the leaves and kill the plant. Keep peas trimmed to allow good air flow. This will prevent moisture buildup and fungus like powdery mildew.
Slugs and snails can be a pest to young pea shoots. Some ways to combat slugs include:
- Snake Habitat
- Running ducks through before planting
- Homemade Slug Traps
- Diatomaceous Earth
One or a combination of the above methods in a biologically diverse garden will prevent slug population from getting out of control.