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Sowing the Seeds of Successful Sweet Peas

Sowing seeds at the end of October.

The time to sow can vary according to location and weather but generally I would say that Autumn-sown crops in Jersey should be in by Guy Fawkes Night at the latest.

seed tray

The seeds do not require a great deal of heat to germinate and any cool place in the house away from direct sunlight will do. A cold frame is fine if night temperatures are not too low.

ready to sow
Covering with cling-film after sowing maintains moisture and obviates the need to water the compost.covered up

Keep a close eye on the trays and you will probably start to see seedlings emerging after about 7 days but this can vary by several days according to variety. As soon as germination has taken place remove the plastic covering completely and move the trays into an area where they will get sunlight otherwise the seedlings will become weak and elongated as they search for light.

germination

When the seedlings look strong but before the first pair of leaves open they must be potted up into John Innes No. 1 compost. If this is delayed the root system can become quite extensive in the seed trays and potting on then might result in either root damage or damage to the stem as greater effort is required to separate the seedling from each other.

potting on
The potted-up seedlings must now be hardened off and put into a cold frame. Only cover at this stage if there is heavy rainfall , snow or frost otherwise once hardened off the plants must be not be covered at all. It is important that the shoots are not encouraged to grow lanky and weak. Short stubbly plants are the ideal. Do not over-water in the frame, better to grow plants or the dry side rather than too wet. That is why it is a good idea to cover plants during prolonged rainfall but be sure to leave enough gap for warm air to escape so the plants do not get too warm. Frost will not kill the plants but prolonged sub-zero temperatures will not do them a lot of good so try to keep the temperature just above freezing especially during the long cold nights.cold frame

Start preparing the ground by double-digging and incorporating organic material. This patch has been covered with seaweed for several weeks prior to digging.

seaweed

Around Christmastime (depending upon the weather) side shoots may start to appear at the leaf joints and it is time to pot the seedlings on into bigger pots using John Innes No. 2 . Root growth is the vital factor to consider and potting on will introduce fresh compost at a time when the plant is starting to make side shoots.

pricking out

There is no need to stop the plant to encourage side shoots as the main shoot will have been restricted due to exposure to low temperatures and one or two side shoots will emerge naturally.

Growing on >>>>>>

repotted