how to sow sweet peas

You know how certain things can remind you of a wonderful experience?

I remember being really little (I’m guessing around four years old) and my Nan-Nan would hold me up to a wall of sweet smelling sweet peas. I loved the smell of those sweet peas and remember asking her over and over to hold me up to smell them.

So naturally, I have been growing sweet peas for years. Before we moved to our farm, I grew them on our mini plot of land (maybe 1/8th of an acre) in southeastern PA suburbia. They flourished in pots, trellising up sticks that I stuck into the pot. The thing about sweet peas is that they love the cold and don’t do well once the heat and humidity come.

I read an article from the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers about a flower farmer in the upper northeast of the US. He pushed the envelope even further when it came to growing sweet peas in the cold weather.

I’m so excited to try his method this year! Not only will the blooms be stronger, but it will save room in my seed starting area.

I used the same <a href="http://<a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0792SM8J5/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0792SM8J5&linkCode=as2&tag=mff2016-20&linkId=1c9c67658d564705fb98a0e6fbe9c5f8">Premier Tech Pro-Mix BX Mycorrhizae Premier Pro-Mix BX Mycorrhizae 3.8 cu ft (30/PLT)soil that I use for soil blocking (you can find more information on that HERE). Because sweet pea seeds are large, I didn’t want to use my small soil blocker, so I used my deepest plastic plug insert cells. Most of these I have collected over the years.

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that Wegmans gave me 50 of their dough trays. Twenty one plastic plug trays fit into it perfectly!

I filled all the cells to the tippy top with <a href="http://<a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0792SM8J5/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0792SM8J5&linkCode=as2&tag=mff2016-20&linkId=6f2500258a57ca84d6b02c0d0b337250">Premier Tech Pro-Mix BX Mycorrhizae Premier Pro-Mix BX Mycorrhizae 3.8 cu ft (30/PLT)Pro-Mix BX Mycorrhizae Growing Mix. It’s pricy, but I want to give all my seeds the best growing environment possible. In the left tray, I mixed water with the soil for a 3:1 ratio. After mixing, the soil was damp, but not soggy.

Sweet pea seeds are so easy to save. You definitely have to try it! Just let your sweet pea flowers dry on the vine. When the pods (they sort of look like regular pea pods…makes sense, right!) completely dry, you just crack it open and the little seeds come out. Store them in a dry, cool place out of sunlight and they’ll be ready to plant the following year!

I use wood plant tags from Johnny’s Seeds and used a <a href="http://<a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DWGJGCJ/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B07DWGJGCJ&linkCode=as2&tag=mff2016-20&linkId=a3883ec964349892bf98ffa392785048">Artline Garden Marker – Quick Dry Ink for Outdoor Use – Water and Sun Resistant InkGarden Marker to make sure that the ink stays on the tag. Permanent markers fade in the sun. Wouldn’t it be awful if you used a permanent marker and then one day you checked on your seeds…only to find that no names were on the tags?! yikes!

See the little round seeds above? I put dropped one seed into each cell. Then I covered each cell to the very top with the pre moistened soil.

This year, I didn’t presoak the seeds. Last year my counter was lined up with mason jars; each filled with a different variety of sweet pea.

Not this year!

I learned the hard way that it’s best to label each 6 pack. Last year I thought I’d remember…boy was that a mistake!

After filling three trays with sweet peas (almost 400 seeds!), I hauled them out to my cold frame…in the snow! Check out my boots above!

On the right side of my cold frame I’m growing spinach, carrots, tulips and daffodils. The left side has pots that I’m overwintering and planting supplies. There is still plenty of room for my three trays of sweet peas.

The article that I was reading suggested that I could grow the sweet peas in my cold frame instead of inside the house (where I’ve always grown them).

Sweet peas like it cold – there’s no need to use a heat mat with them! As you can see below, we’re in the middle of a snowy cold snap here in south central Pennsylvania (6b), and it’s still almost 40 degrees F inside of my cold frame! I know the temperature will dip quite a bit at night, but they’ll get plenty of natural light out there.

Just for reference, you can see I’m not joking – it’s cold and definitely snowy here! 🙂 Also, all the smart people who said to “build a greenhouse larger than you think you’ll need” were right. I definitely wish mine was bigger!

And totally unrelated to seed starting…our woods are filled with Jack Pines. I think they’re so beautiful – especially in the snow!!

Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about starting sweet pea seeds, or any other seed!

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